FORMER COMPUTER CONSULTANT Connie Mobry-Bathke left a spacious suburban home in Eden Prairie about a year and a half ago for an unassuming farm life with her partner in rural Zumbrota. Without even a wooden sign to guide them, people are finding her there, maladjusted canines (and the odd cat or donkey) in tow, arriving at the makeshift barns for insight and tutelage. It seems Mobry-Bathke, a life coach, artist, and shepherd, has picked up a new title: The Dog Whisperer.
Troubled pets typically live at the farm while Mobry-Bathke “gets in touch with the creature’s spirit” and determines its needs. In some cases, she makes critter house calls. Her ultimate goal? To help broker agreements between animals and their humans that eventually might bring peace to the pack.
Why did you move to the farm?
We needed to move to continue breeding and training dogs, because there is a limit to the number you can keep in the city—and rightly so. Also, we wanted to create “Grandma’s house,” a place where you can listen to your heart in land, space, and nature.
When you’re upset with your mother, you go to Grandma’s house, where you’re never judged and somehow everyone is her favorite. And with the dogs, it’s especially like being a grandmother—we get to have them, enjoy them, work with them, but then send them back home.
How do dogs come to train with you?
I only take on dogs as requested. It’s all word of mouth. Sometimes it’s to get them ready to show in competition. Or just help them settle down, find their mission, and be good members of their households. Both are important jobs.
Dogs have jobs?
Absolutely. Everyone needs a job. Whether it’s being a show champion, the dog that helps me get the mail, or one of my guard llamas protecting the sheep, everyone—critters included—needs something to be proud of.
Do you talk to the animals?
I have an absolutely communicative relationship with them. I find out their needs and what they are willing to do to get them met. Once that happens, they become a joy to work with. Other times, I just tell them to cut out the drama.
Specifically, how do you communicate with animals?
I do energy balancing and work with essential oils. And I’ve formally studied with [shamanic healer and animal communicator] Mary Stoffel. She helped me trust my instincts. Really, anyone can do this.
Tell me about a dog you’ve worked with.
The last dog we had here didn’t want to train to hunt pheasants in the field. He would submissive-pee whenever you got near him. I had to build his confidence. I started by just sitting with him on the floor. Then we started training all over—with the basics—and eventually brought him up to serious fieldwork.
How long did you work with this animal?
I had him about a month. His owner is a good trainer, but the dog was one of several and didn’t know his place. The owner had struggled with the dog for a couple of years.
What are you going to list as your occupation on your tax return?
[Laughing] For years, I sought the image of a sophisticated computer professional. But I guess “earth mother” is where I’m at now. Do they have a category for that?