Kathleen Prasad recalls being introduced to a rescued pit bull at Berkeley Animal Care Services in Berkeley, California. “He was shaking uncontrollably, holding his stomach low and walking like a lizard.” Staff asked Prasad, a guide in Tierreiki, to work with him. “I took him to a private room, sat on a blanket and he crawled on my lap.” She relaxed, breathed, and focused on her meditation, an animal reiki practice that she teaches worldwide.
“After 20 minutes he shook his head vigorously, looked at me and sighed.” The shaking stopped and she sat with him for another 30 minutes. When they left the room to greet the staff, the dog walked calmly. “Where is the dog we gave you?” The staff asked her.
Versions of Kathleen’s story are repeated by animal Reiki practitioners in Canada who use the complementary approach to providing physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual relief to pets. Practitioners use Reiki as an adjunct to veterinary work to assist animals with everything from arthritis, indigestion, post-operative trauma, chemoreactions, and anxiety to disease delays, life transitions, and end-of-life problems.
Mikao Usui rediscovered Reiki in Japan in 1922 and some believed it came from Tibet 10,000 years ago. Usui Reiki includes the Reiki symbols, distance healing methods, hand postures for working on yourself and others and an attunement process. Practitioners direct the universal life energy that surrounds us to balance the life energy (ki) in humans, plants and animals. The practice involves channeling the energy of “heavenly ki” from your crown chakras and “earthly ki” from your foot chakras through your hands. The goal is for energy to flow from the chakra to the associated gland and then to the associated organ to compensate for excesses and deficiencies.
Dr. Julie Lahey is the practice owner, hospital manager and on-site veterinarian at the integrative Harbourview Animal Hospital in North Vancouver, where Reiki is one of the treatments on offer. Lahey is an advocate of animal Reiki and a self-practitioner. “It definitely improves on the regular modalities,” she says. “I would almost always recommend it to pet owners, perhaps not for a general examination, but also for animal disease and emotional instability.”
Lahey recalls a time when she sent a Reiki practitioner to work on a cat with a bladder tumor. “After repeating the ultrasound, they didn’t find the tumor.”
Not all veterinarians are that enthusiastic about animal Reiki. Dr. Kathy Kramer of Vancouver Wellness Hospital includes traditional Chinese medicine, veterinary acupuncture, and cannabis in her practice. She says that while she has seen studies suggesting Reiki is beneficial for humans, “there isn’t much hard evidence”. Kramer says a dozen animal massage therapists offer Reiki as part of their services. “We don’t offer Reiki because so many people already do it for their pets.”
“If it has a positive impact, I think it’s great,” says Kramer, adding that it has to be done with, not instead of, veterinary treatment.
“Reiki is not a substitute for veterinary medicine,” agrees Tierreiki practitioner Willow Mainprize. “I love veterinary medicine. It has its purpose. We are there as a support element.” Mainprize has used Reiki on animals with tumors, malnutrition and trust problems. She has helped a rescue dog into a home with a new baby and integrated a new horse into a herd.
She tells the story of a frightened pigeon at the SPCA that would attack and bite its caretaker. Willow used Reiki to create a harmonized atmosphere and sense of security for the bird. “Next, the pigeon sits on the woman’s shoulder, she could feed her, clean the cage – no drama, no aggression.”
Since starting her business 11 years ago, animal tripping and massage practitioner Tazuko Kai has said she has treated most of her animal customers for cancer and separation anxiety. Owners will also speak to them when they have seen a vet and run out of options. “I am always the last resource.”
Kai says she is treating many animals in transition that are “ready” but whose owners are persevering, delaying the death process. She says that Reiki can affect everyone involved and supports people in letting go.
She teaches animal reiki for both pet owners and other Reiki therapists and sees an increase in the number of pet owners in her courses. “People are more open today than they were 10 years ago,” says Kai. “People used to laugh at animal massage.”
Marni Norwich is a Vancouver-based writer, editor, and writing teacher. She is also an intuitive energy practitioner.