How to help on National Black Dog Day

Did you know that today is National Black Dog Day? It’s true! Today is a day to celebrate all of the wonderful black dogs that have touched our hearts—and all of the black dogs in shelters still waiting for their forever homes.

Historically, black dogs (and black animals in general) have been stigmatized by society—they are often less likely to be adopted and the first to be euthanized in overcrowded shelters. The phenomenon even has a name: black dog syndrome. But we can change things!

According to the National Black Dog Day website, this special day was founded by lifestyle expert and pet maven Colleen Paige to create public awareness, encourage everyone to adopt a black dog from a shelter, and “show the world how much light they have inside and out!”

She’s right: They truly do shine love and light into the world and onto their favorite humans. Just last week, I was saddened to hear that Midnight Cali—the beautiful, intelligent, quirky, loving and gentle black Labrador retriever my parents adopted in 2002—had been taken by the angels at age 16 after a brave fight against the ailments of old age.

Cali began her life as a service dog, but my parents gave her a second chance at life and a new home after she retired at age 3. She loved chasing balls, traveling to new places (especially to the beach!), swimming, taking walks with my dad, eating treats and sharing long cuddles on the couch. Most of all, she loved people and remembered everyone, even those she didn’t see often. She was always kind and gentle to my daughter Indigo, even as a toddler—and then again with my little nephew, when she visited him and his family in Southern California for Christmas. Just 9 months old at the time, he would try to crawl into her bed, but she was happy to let him in, nudging him with her wet nose and offering tail wags. Cali, we all miss you so much!

So if you’re thinking of bringing home a new furry member of the family today (or another day soon), think about visiting your local animal rescue and choosing a black doggie. Their hearts are just as big and bright! And in case you need even more convincing, check out these 10 reasons black dogs are the coolest. I kind of have to agree. Happy National Black Dog Day!

Do you have a special black dog who has touched your heart? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

10 smart ways to “save the planet in four words”

Last week, the hashtag #SaveThePlanetIn4Words was trending on Twitter—and the Twitterverse came up with so many wonderful, insightful and often hilarious ideas! It got me thinking: What four words would I choose to save the planet? Here’s what I came up with:

I truly believe this world would be a better place if we all lived with compassion for all beings. Here are 10 more smart tweets that warmed my heart:

3 powerful ways Reiki can help animals in need

I have been honored to share Reiki with thousands of animals around the world. And through this work with animals—many of them in shelters—I’ve seen firsthand how Reiki always finds a way to heal the animal on some level, even if what needs healing isn’t readily apparent at the time. The following stories illustrate three powerful ways Reiki can help animals in need:

A story of physical healing

There was a kitten one day in the shelter where I was volunteering. He had been poisoned. His mother had somehow ingested poison, and then the babies had nursed, and so there were three kittens and the mom. By the time I got there, two of the kittens and the mom had already died, and there was this one kitten left, and he was in pretty bad shape. He was very listless and couldn’t open his eyes. He couldn’t stand up and was just lying there. The staff person said to me, “Well, we’re not sure he’s going to make it, but we want to give him a little time; can you sit and do Reiki?”

What is more powerful than being present with an open heart and compassion for another being?

So I sat outside the cage, and after several minutes, the kitten tried to open his eyes and tried to move his head, and he leaned forward, and I could see he saw, he knew. He could sense I was there because, of course, animals are much more sensitive than people, and he was asking for more healing. So I opened the cage door. I put my hands in. I cupped my hands around him and he leaned his little head on the side of my hand, and he was tiny enough that I could easily fit him just within my hands (and I have very small hands). He was just a teeny, tiny little thing. He curled right up and leaned his little head against me and slept.

After about 45 minutes, he woke up. I moved my hands away. He opened his eyes and looked right at me with his very bright eyes, meowed a teeny, little meow, stretched, and went over and drank water. Amazing, and with just one treatment of 45 minutes! It was literally as if he had come back from the brink of death, with nothing except Reiki.

What is more powerful than being present with an open heart and compassion for another being? Isn’t that the ultimate healing? And this is what we do as Reiki practitioners!

This is a beautiful example of how Reiki touches our most inner heart and spreads out in a beautiful ripple effect, and this is why we see these kinds of physical healings, as with the kitten. It is so beautiful to see.

A story of emotional healing

Another day at the shelter, they asked me to work with a dog who was very, very ill, but also had been severely abused and was basically shut down. If you’ve ever seen an animal like this, it’s where they are unresponsive; there’s just basically “nobody home.” He was lying in the back of the kennel, his head down. His eyes were open, but they were glazed over with no expression; he had absolutely no response to people walking through, or to all of the loud noise at the shelter. There were dogs barking next to him and jumping around, but he had absolutely no response. He was completely shut down emotionally.

Even he could not resist the beautiful power of love and compassion that is Reiki.

I sat outside his kennel and offered Reiki. For me, what this means is, it’s really about feeling the love, opening my heart, sitting in compassion and just inviting the animal to share that space. So I sat there for about 45 minutes to an hour. At that time, I had to move on. So I stood up and thanked the dog. I could hardly believe my eyes: As soon as I stood up and thanked him, he got up, too. He walked over wagging his tail. He walked up to the front of the kennel, rolled on his back and offered me his tummy, all the while wagging his tail. It was the most amazing transformation from just one treatment.

This healing didn’t happen because I was thinking I need to heal this and that problem. It wasn’t because I was directing energy to do this and that. It was because an open heart with compassion is the ultimate healer! It doesn’t matter how bad something is—Reiki can transform any condition. In essence, Reiki is really love and compassion, and thus it can reach any problem. So I always feel there is always hope, especially because of what I’ve seen over the years.

Reiki is so powerful, and yet it is completely noninvasive and very, very gentle.

A story of spiritual healing

Despite the beautiful things I have seen, I know that Reiki is not a cure-all. Just because you do Reiki doesn’t mean you will never get sick or that you won’t die. But over time I have come to realize that it’s the peacefulness of Reiki that is really what’s important.

In this sacred space, all things are possible.

There was a dog that came into the shelter one day, and the dog was very vicious and they were going to have to euthanize him. I happened to be there a few hours before that, offering Reiki, and the staff said to me, “Oh, can you at least sit with him? He’s very aggressive and nobody can really do anything with him. Maybe it will help somehow?”

I knew that this dog’s path had been decided and there was nothing I could do to change it, and yet with Reiki, I knew I could do something.

So I went and sat outside the kennel. I could see that this dog was very vicious and out of his mind with rage. I sat a bit away from the kennel and turned to the side so that I wasn’t making him feel even worse (although that would have been hard to do!). He was pacing and snarling. Every person or dog or movement that he saw, he would lunge, snapping and barking.

So I just closed my eyes, went inward, and created that Reiki space. I focused on the peace of Reiki, and just sat. I thought to myself, I’m just going to shine my light, and I hope it helps. I knew that was all I could do. After about 20 minutes, I opened one eye because I could tell things had quieted down. I was afraid to look because he was so sensitive to any movement or any eye contract at all, but I opened one eye just to glance at him. He had actually stopped pacing, stopped barking, stop growling. He was standing. He would not lie down, but he was standing, leaning against the side of the kennel. His head was down and bobbing up and down slightly because he was falling asleep standing up. Even he could not resist the beautiful power of love and compassion that is Reiki.

Even though he was euthanized later that day, I could feel that his spirit really received a beautiful peacefulness that he otherwise would not have felt in this lifetime. I feel that that was important for his journey. In fact, for each and every one of us, it is very, very important to have that peacefulness, even if it is only for a short time. Yes, perhaps the dog’s life here was ended, but this brief moment of rest for his body, mind and spirit was a profound gift.

It’s amazing to me that by simply relaxing, being quiet, breathing and having a heartfelt intention to help another being, you create a sacred space. In this space, all things are possible.

Do you have any powerful animal Reiki stories to share?

Excerpted from Everything Animal Reiki by Kathleen Prasad

The transformational power of walking your dog mindfully

Walking your dog is so great in so many ways: It’s excellent exercise, you spend quality time with your pooch doing what they love best, you get to breathe in fresh air, and dog-walking has even been shown to reduce stress and build your sense of community. But here’s an easy way to amp up your daily ritual and make it even more powerful: walk your dog mindfully.

When we think of mindfulness, we think of stillness, meditation, awareness and savoring this very moment with a full heart. Now incorporate these mindful intentions next time you walk your dog—and get ready to watch the many benefits unfold!

1. Slow down. If you walk the same loop around your neighborhood every day and you’re on autopilot, take a different path and consciously slow down. Instead of seeing the walk as a doggie bathroom break, awaken your senses and reconnect with nature around you. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Notice the new things around you. Breathe. Pay attention to how the flowers and trees smell, or maybe the crisp autumn air from a distant log burning in a fireplace somewhere. Listen to bird calls or the sound of the wind. Feel the sun on your skin. Follow your dog’s lead as he walks with balance and harmony on the earth. Getting out of your head and into the natural world in this way is very healing for both mind and body. (For more on the powerful healing properties of spending time in nature, check out my article on the Japanese art of “forest bathing.”)

2. Connect with the now. On this mindful walk with your dog, do not worry about what happened yesterday or in the past, or stress over what’s to come. Yes, this is difficult to do—but focus on setting your intention to focus only on this moment before you. This exercise in mindfulness allows you to free your mind and find a quiet place where true healing, inspiration and problem-solving can begin to grow.

It may help you to remember the five Reiki precepts.

For today only …
Do not anger.
Do not worry.
Be grateful.
Practice diligently in your work.
Be compassionate to yourself and others.

3. Make mindful dog-walking your new habit. In our chaotic, busy lives, the reality is that, for most of us, mindful dog-walking will be difficult to do each and every time. But if you aim for 30 minutes three times a week, you’ll be incorporating more mindfulness into your life than ever before. And pretty soon something amazing will begin to happen: You’ll find it easier than ever to access that space of inner peace that our animals just naturally reside in—especially when times get tough.

Have you ever walked your dog mindfully?

4 tips to see with clear and positive eyes

When our animals are sick, it can be very difficult to stay positive. The more upset and emotional we become, the more it weighs upon our animals, as they are so sensitive to our inner states. Here are four ways to shift into the positive when life gets us down:

1. Look inward.

Through your own personal daily meditation practice, you will heal layer upon layer within yourself. As you shed these layers, like peeling an onion, you will uncover your bright and beautiful inner light. And, yes, there may be tears. 🙂 But they are good tears of healing and release. The more you can see the bright light in yourself, the more you can recognize it in someone else. You will begin to be able to see animals in a different way! This all starts within your own experience—only then can you share it with others.

2. See with your “Reiki eyes.”

In other words, see with your heart. See more deeply than the surface of things. Realize that the true essence of the animal is always perfect, no matter what physical issues may be faced.

3. Notice the silver lining.

In any situation, there is always a positive. Sometimes, while sitting with a very sick dog in a chaotic shelter setting, I would look up at the sky and admire the beauty of the clouds and be grateful to be alive and healthy enough to help someone else in that moment. Or when sitting with a hospice animal at BrightHaven, I would realize the blessings of love and peacefulness surrounding the animal—how wonderful they managed to come to BrightHaven for his or her final chapter in this life.

4. Find an affirmation as a mantra.

Pick a positive word and use that to focus your mind when it begins to turn toward fearful or emotional thinking. For example, if you are sharing Reiki with a fearful dog, try using the word “love.” If you are sharing Reiki with an animal who is in pain, try using the word “peace.” Bring your whole heart to this word and chant it to yourself each time your mind begins to focus on what is “wrong” in that moment.

The more that our energy releases fear and sadness, the more we can radiate love and compassion. This beautiful positivity radiates all around us and will help animals to remember their own self-healing power. Animals will be drawn to be with us even when they don’t feel well because they feel our positive energy. We can walk this journey of healing side by side. The most powerful healing gift we can give to them when they are facing illness is our clear sight: seeing them as they really are—as beautiful perfect bright lights!

Do you have any secrets for staying positive when your animal is sick?