Reiki and Animals: Creating a World of Wellness
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
This quote, by celebrated French author Anatole France, captures in a nutshell the power and beauty of animals and the gifts they bring to our lives. In working with animals and Reiki, we open a window to this relationship; by connecting to animals energetically and being a part of their healing process, we are able to deepen our connection to the universe and our understanding of our place within it.
Reiki is ideal for use with animals because it is gentle and noninvasive. It works as a wonderful and safe complement to other systems of healing, both allopathic and holistic. It doesn’t cause stress, discomfort, or pain, and yet yields powerful results. As highly sensitive and energetically aware beings, animals respond intuitively to Reiki’s power in healing emotional, behavioral, and physical illnesses and injuries. In the deepest sense, Reiki helps the body heal itself. But even when a physical healing is not possible, Reiki can bring peace and comfort, and ease the transition to death. In addition, Reiki provides comfort and peace to surviving family members (both humans and animals) as they deal with the grief of loss. My student Michelle, for example, learned of Reiki just before her beloved cat, Ebony, passed away:
Traditional medicine had done all that it could. Inspired to help him in his last days, Michelle began to explore alternative healing options. Attracted by Reiki’s ability to be given without direct contact, she began regular treatments for Ebony. After Reiki helped him pass with grace and peace, and without the pain that usually accompanied such [AN] illness, Michelle was faced with her own emptiness. Ebony had been her constant companion for more than 15 years, and she didn’t know how to go on without him. With regular Reiki treatments for herself, Michelle was able to heal the grief and pain in her heart. She was so amazed at how much these treatments helped her in her time of deepest need, that she was inspired to learn to practice Reiki herself. Within a year, she had adopted a new kitten and begun giving her regular Reiki treatments as a regular part of their time together. With each treatment, her bond and understanding of her new kitty companion deepened. As Reiki brought healing and peace to both her new kitty and her own heart, it also brought a new understanding of the gifts animals could bring. And as her Reiki practice unfolded and expanded to become a central part of her life, and eventually her career, she came to realize that she would never have found this healing practice without Ebony. In bringing to her the most difficult lesson of life after loss, her treasured cat had truly guided her to her heart’s calling.
Reiki works even in extremely stressful environments, like animal shelters, bringing a sense of calm to the animal recipient. The story of one shelter dog I treated comes to mind:
The shelter dog jumped, circled and barked incessantly, unable to relax in the stressful new environment of the kennel. He had recently been removed from his home due to abuse and neglect, and it appeared that he had never felt the gentle touch of a human hand. His ribs poked through his sides, and his body was covered in wounds, both old and new. I sat in the lotus position, just outside the kennel, put in my earplugs and closed my eyes, silently letting the dog know I was here to help him. Keeping my eyes averted in respect, I began to offer him Reiki energy through the wire mesh of his cage, letting him know he need take only the energy he was open to. Almost immediately, the dog stopped jumping and approached the bars carefully, staring at me briefly before retreating to the other side of the kennel. After just a few more jumps, barks, and circling by me to sniff curiously, he began to yawn and his eyelids became heavy. Within a few more minutes, he had stopped barking completely and come to the side of the kennel nearest to me again. This time, after giving me a meaningful gaze and plopping down on his side, he leaned his body against the bars, let out a huge sigh, and settled into a relaxing Reiki nap.
This is just one of the many examples of how Reiki can build trust and bring stress-relief and relaxation to even the most stressful situations. In this way, Reiki practitioners often find themselves serving as harbingers of peace and harmony. In offering healing to the animals, we offer a rebalancing not only to animals themselves, but also to the human/animal bond. In learning the language of energy, with the help of the animals, we can learn to live closer to their world, to nature and to the earth. As the above story illustrates, when approached with respect and gentleness, regardless of what their previous experiences with humans may be, animals can learn to trust again in the peaceful harmony provided by a Reiki treatment. Humans, too, can learn to trust the subtle yet powerful possibilities of Reiki’s healing energy.
According to Dr. Lauren Chattigre, DVM, DVetHom, CVA, CVCP, Reiki Master, of the Cascade Summit Animal Hospital in West Linn, Oregon, openness to Reiki hinges on people’s acceptance of the unknown. “It’s just a question of people getting used to the idea, of people trying it and seeing the benefits. Change is slow, especially in scientific circles, you know. Acupuncture used to be not nearly as accepted as it is now. It’s just been a matter of time and trial and education and people trying it.”
A growing number of veterinarians around the world are opening their minds and even offices to Reiki. For example, holistic veterinarians in the United Kingdom work in conjunction with Reiki practitioners, providing referrals and support. In the United States alone, nearly 100 veterinarians are listed as Reiki practitioners with the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (www.ahvma.org).
Dr. Chattigre practices veterinary medicine using both conventional and alternative methods. She uses Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Homeopathy, and Reiki to support the health and well-being of her animal clients. “Reiki, though, is a tougher sell. Because it’s more out there. Acupuncture, you can see a needle going in; chiropractic, you can see something moving. But Reiki is a little tougher for people to accept.”
Nonetheless, her clients, when open to Reiki, have seen wonderful results. Dr. Chattigre remembers one Reiki client, “a very young dog who had to have bilateral hip surgery and I did Reiki after each. They didn’t do both surgeries at the same time; they did one and allowed it to heal, and did the other and allowed it to heal, and the Reiki sessions started out in person, I went to her house. But after a time, we did those by distance as well. And later on, when they re-X-rayed the area to just monitor the healing, apparently the surgeon was quite impressed with the speed of healing and he said, ‘What are you doing for this dog?’ and she tried to explain, and he said, ‘Well, whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it!’ ”
Dr. Chattigre also recalls a feline client who responded particularly well to Reiki. “He had recurrent urinary crystals, mostly because of stress. And a lot of kitties get crystals from stress, but he particularly was a very high-stress kitty. And the client could not bring him into the clinic, because he had that much trouble coming in specifically. So for him, I actually did distance Reiki, where I would sit in a room quietly in the vet clinic, and he would be at his house, and there are ways in Reiki practice where you send the energy of Reiki long-distance. And during the session, we would set up a time so that she [the cat’s person] knew and I knew. The cat would just be doing his thing, but she often commented that at that time, he would become very quiet, not fall asleep per se, but just become quiet and thoughtful, and afterward he would be much calmer. So she would just call me periodically for a distant Reiki session when he seemed to be getting a little more uptight.” With regular distant Reiki treatments, he was able to remain crystal-free.
For veterinarian Carolina Kliass of Sao Paulo, Brazil, it’s all a matter of letting people see the results Reiki can produce. In her private practice, Dr. Kliass uses conventional veterinary techniques in addition to Reiki, and occasionally flower essences and Homeopathy.
Dr. Kliass fondly remembers, one story of “a client I’ll never forget. It was a Boxer, she was 10 years old, and passed away two months ago. And she was very special because all the responses that you want from a person or a dog, or animal-that you’d expect from Reiki-she gave to me. All the responses.” Each time Dr. Kliass visited the dog’s home for a Reiki treatment, “she turned and went to the special place that always we did Reiki. We always did Reiki there, or on the ground near the sofa or on the sofa. And she lay down and looked at me and said, ‘I’m here, work on me.’ It was so fun; she was amazing. She always respected the Reiki sessions; it was very nice. She was my darling. She was wonderful.”
Besides the warm emotional response the Boxer gave to Dr. Kliass during treatments, the dog responded well physically to treatments. “She had bone cancer, and the evolution was not so fast as was expected, because it’s a very aggressive disease, and it took more than a year until she passed away,” says Dr. Kliass. “And she was taking homeopathic remedies, too, but without Reiki, I think this period would be shorter, absolutely. A few months.”
Dr. Kliass believes the dog’s quality of life during her year of Reiki treatments was also enhanced: “This year period, she was great. She lived on a farm: a ranch, all hills up and down, and she walked all around with this cancer in her leg.”
When offering Reiki to your animal, there are two options for treatments: in-person Reiki (for Level 1 through Master Level practitioners) and distant Reiki (for Level 2 and Master Level practitioners).
Offering Reiki in person to your animal means being in the same room with him as you give a treatment. When choosing this kind of treatment, find a familiar and comfortable place where your animal is free to move within the room, without constraints. In addition, always ask his permission before you begin. By giving your animal freedom and choice in treatment, you build trust and acceptance. Many animals enjoy hands-on treatments, and will come forward and put their bodies under your hands. In these cases, use the hand positions that seem comfortable and pleasing to your animal. Often, hands-on treatments may involve only one or two hand positions. Remember that Reiki will go where it needs to go, and the most important role for you is to be an open channel for the energy. That’s one of the lessons I learned after volunteering at BrightHaven, a non-profit, holistic animal retreat in Sebastopol, California:
In working with the senior and special needs animals at BrightHaven, I learn something new from my animal teachers every visit! When I arrive, I find a seat in one of the rooms, center myself and ask whatever animals want and need healing to come; I mentally let them know that I am there to offer healing to whoever is open to it. In the beginning, I expected the most fragile cats to shy away from the stronger feeling of hands-on Reiki, and the stronger, healthier ones to approach me. But time and time again, the most fragile ones are the ones who climb into my lap the moment I arrive and stay there until I leave. Sometimes, they are too sick to even walk, and they will simply lift their head and stretch toward me, trying to come closer. The key is, I believe, that I have allowed them to approach me, to CHOOSE Reiki for themselves, thus honoring their unique and individual ways of receiving it.
For some animals, treatments are much more comfortable from a few feet away, or even from across the room or paddock, and by allowing your animal to come and go from your hands according to his preference, you will ensure an enthusiastic response! Allow 30 to 60 minutes for optimum results. The more you work with animals, the easier this will become:
Max is an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood, 18.2 hands in height. He has been receiving weekly Reiki treatments since March 2005, and is a perfect example of how an in-person treatment is likely to unfold. He likes receiving Reiki treatments in a specific way: As I enter his paddock, he comes and greets me, pushing his nose into my chest and licking my palms or carefully pulling my hat off my head. Once I ask permission and begin the Reiki treatment, he walks into his three-sided shelter and settles in for a nap. Each time, his head drops all the way to the ground as he yawns several times. He occasionally sways so much in his sleep that it looks like his knees are about to buckle! Respectfully, I keep the distance between us, treating him from about 15 feet away. Occasionally, he wakes up long enough to arch his back like a cat stretching or to lift his back legs into the air.
At the end of the treatment, he approaches me again and breathes deeply into my chest, before walking away and resuming his horsey activities (grazing, visiting neighboring horses and so on). It is a lovely pattern of treatment that we both enjoy. He knows why I’m there and appreciates the healing energy, and I let him choose to receive the treatment exactly as he is comfortable to receive it.
The second option for treating your animal is through distant healing. Distant Healing is very effective and can be preferable to hands-on treatments in some instances.
It is wonderful to be able to send your animal Reiki when you are away from him. And some animals may be extremely small, fearful, old and fragile, or close to death and may be better able to relax and absorb Reiki when you are out of their presence. Allow 20 to 30 minutes for optimum results.
Distant Reiki offers the same benefits as hands-on Reiki: physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Because we are all one at the most basic, energetic level, healing distantly is not so much “sending energy” as it is remembering and “truly knowing” this connection of all things.
Mattie is an older, beautiful lab mix. He received a series of four distant treatments for stiffness and difficulty walking in his hind end. The first treatment I sent to him began with my focusing on his photo and asking of his permission to send healing. The energy flowed very gradually at first, and I could tell he was still getting used to the feeling of the energy. I reassured him that he need take only the energy he was comfortable receiving: that this treatment was on HIS terms. By the end of the first treatment, I felt the energy flowing very strongly to him. Sure enough, his person said that he paced during the first half of the treatment, finally settling down and resting at the end. On the subsequent three treatments, however, once he had assessed the energy and trusted that he could take the energy in the ways he was comfortable, he settled more quickly each time, finally sleeping through the entire fourth treatment. His person happily relayed to me that he showed immediate improvement in the balance and coordination of his hind end in his daily walks.
In distant Reiki, energy is sent mentally, either using intention, or sometimes using a photo or surrogate to represent the client. A distant Reiki treatment can provide pain relief for various illnesses and injuries, accelerated healing from surgery, emotional healing, including healing for behavioral issues, prevention of illness or accelerated healing of an illness, and can greatly ease the transition to death. Distant Reiki is also helpful in healing family situations that may involve your animal and in helping human companions with the process of an animal’s death. A distant treatment can also be sent to heal a traumatic event in your animal’s past.
Looking Forward to the Future
As more people, including veterinarians, educate themselves about the options of complementary healing modalities such as Reiki, more and more animals will benefit. But on a deeper level, as humans experience the healing possibilities of energetic connection with animals, a new and deeper understanding of our relationship with each other and place in the universe will result. By offering animals the gift of Reiki peace and harmony, you open yourself to the possibility of living in a world of respect and reverence for all creatures: a world of true balance and wellness.
Finding the Optimum Treatment Program
Although sometimes healing can be seen in one or two treatments, for continued health, balance and well-being, all animals benefit most from a regularly scheduled program of Reiki. Remember, while Reiki is a powerful healing system on its own, it is also a wonderful complement to other therapies that may be helping your animal recover. It is not meant as a substitute for veterinary care. In addition to providing Reiki treatments for your animal, always consult your trusted veterinarian about the best course of medical treatment.
EQUINE, CANINE, AND FELINE REIKI TREATMENT PROGRAMS:
- For horses in full training (endurance, dressage, etc.), working, agility, or show dogs, and show cats: Begin with a series of four treatments on consecutive days, then once a week or every other week for maintenance. Daily treatments suggested on the most demanding of days.
- For horses in rehab and dogs and cats recovering from injury/illness: Begin with a series of at least four treatments on consecutive days, followed by once or twice a week until recovery.
- For horses in retirement, and senior dogs and cats: Begin with a series of four treatments on consecutive days, followed by once a week or every other week for maintenance.
- For horses, dogs, and cats nearing their transition: Begin with a series of treatments on consecutive days, followed by a few times a week or as needed for support in this process.
SMALL ANIMAL/AVIAN REIKI TREATMENT PROGRAMS:
- Health maintenance: Begin with a series of four treatments on consecutive days, followed by once a week or every other week for maintenance.
- Recovery from illness/injury: Daily treatment or as often as needed until recovery.
- Seniors: Begin with a series of four treatments on consecutive days, followed by once a week or as needed for maintenance.
- Nearing their transition: Daily treatments or as needed for support with this process.
Reiki News Magazine, Spring 2006 Issue
You can learn more about Kathleen here.