Claiming that she can read the minds of animals might make her an object of clinical curiosity elsewhere, but on the West Coast Beatrice Lydecker is just another high-priced professional. For $45 an hour, she tells pet owners the hopes and dreams of nonverbal quadrupeds who communicate—through mental images—with her.

How does she do it? "Animals feel the same emotions we feel," she says, "and I feel what the animals feel—their emotional pain and physical discomfort." A born-again Christian, Lydecker, 49, says God gave her the ability to read animal minds in 1969, telling her, "I have work for you to do." (She can also read human minds, she says, but doesn't, because it would be "a violation of privacy.") Lydecker turned her abilities into a business after appearances before community groups brought her a private clientele.

In 1986, as a birthday present for Elizabeth Taylor, Lydecker chatted up Liz's menagerie, a Pekingese, a parrot and a Burmese cat. "Elizabeth's animals adore her," Lydecker coos, saying they sent her images filled with love. "They don't know she's famous. They call her our friend."

Presumably there's no end to the talk at home in her Portland, Ore., trailer, where she lives with 10 large dogs.

Lydia Hiby, Lydecker's partner, says their work has a scientific basis. "When we talk to animals we're in the alpha state, where creative activity takes place," she maintains. "Animals are in alpha all the time." Adds Lydecker: "Horses are easiest because they are so sharp." Dr. Benjamin Hart, a professor at the University of California's school of veterinary medicine, finds all this entertaining but scientifically dubious. "Look at how hard it is for people to communicate," he says. "Why should animals do it any better?"