For as long as she can remember, Barbara Mackey has had a special relationship with animals.
"As a child, I just knew how animals were feeling," the Toms River resident said. "It was all very intuitive; I can't explain, but when I was around animals, I could pick up on things."
That intuitiveness continued into her life as a pet owner, first to her dog, Louis-Philippe, and now to her cat, Mercedes Benz.
"It was something that was always there," she said. "I never delved into it, but now it's part of who I am."
Now, Mackey's ability to know how animals are feeling — call it pet intuitiveness — has led her straight to Animal Planet and the channel's new original series, "The Haunted."
Premiering at 10 p.m. Sunday, "The Haunted" takes an intimate look at stories of people whose animals act as mediaries to the afterworld.
Often the subjects of the most intense paranormal hauntings, animals are commonly believed to be more sensitive to spirits than people. And when spirits afflict pets, the animals aren't the only victims. Owners can also fall prey to paranormal activity and will often stop at nothing to rid their homes and pets of paranormal spirits.
"Animals are more psychic than people," Mackey said. "They go with their sixth sense completely. . . it's pure primal instinct."
A psychic/medium/channeler who has been doing paranormal investigations for more than 25 years, Mackey was approached by a production company for the show and asked to lend her expertise.
"They told me it (the series) was going to be about animals who might have been sacrificed or used for experimentation, or something else and they wanted to get my impressions of what happened in the places they would take me to," Mackey said.
A short-time later, Mackey found herself in what she describes as a one-time "insane asylum."
Immediately, Mackey was overwhelmed by images - not only of the patients who were once housed there, but by the animals who were used in experiments in the building.
"I could pick up the souls of people, picture the dungeon rooms where they were housed," she recalled. "And the animals, the animals that were used in experiments. . . they were terrified. I heard them screaming. . .and it was done in the name of testing."
While being a pet intuitive is emotionally draining, Mackey says she sees it as her calling.
"I am their voice," she said. "They cannot speak, but I can tell their story."
Mackey is also slated to appear on the Nov. 29 episode, when she and a paranormal team from Pennsylvania head out to investigate "The Cat Cult."
Barbara also does private animal readings.