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The Lab Report

Sammy has psychological issues; Shelley is here to find out why

Author Craig Stephens Illustration Peter Oumanski


LOS ANGELES – Seated at a round table in a sparse apartment in downtown Los Angeles, two women stare blankly at one another over a flickering candle. One, wearing a colorful headscarf, has something to reveal. “I sense Sammy is suffering separation anxiety,” she says. “He’s lonely and was simply acting out.”  

The Sammy in question is a five-year-old Labrador. His owner, a retired realtor from Van Nuys, has come here to try to figure out why he recently wrecked her apartment. The dog sits impassively as Shelley Hofberg peers into his eyes, possibly trying to fathom an even deeper reason for his actions.

Hofberg is a psychic, healer and paranormal investigator of some renown. She is also in demand as a pet empath. “It all started when I was a child of eight,” she explains. “Our Siamese cat became ill and I began feeling something in my stomach when it was around.

This was due to me being empathic. My parents took it to a vet who confirmed it had an issue with its intestine.”

Now in her 60s, Hofberg has been working with animals professionally since the late 1980s. “I communicate with them via telepathy,” she says. “I can pick up on the thoughts and emotions of the animal.”

She is also good at gauging the thoughts and emotions of the pets’ owners, although this tends to be more of a deductive process. “An owner wants to know how the pet feels about them,” she says. “Or if there’s some sort of behavioral issue or possibly health issue.”

As for Sammy, she hasn’t quite cracked that nut yet—but, in the grand scheme of things, a home-wrecking Lab shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge.

Hofberg recalls one of her more difficult cases, a Chihuahua named Juan with a history of abuse. “His former owner had tossed him around, so he was very vicious and resentful with his second owner,” she says, adding: “I helped him overcome that and adapt to his new home.”

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