The old gray horse wasn’t what he used to be. At 22 years old, G.T. (Gray Thing) developed a condition that made his front two legs quiver, making him unsound to ride- and uncomfortable. “My daughter rode him and her instructor used him for lessons for three or four riders a week,” says owner B.F. Dowell, who lives in northern California. Dowell knew Reiki Master Nikki Cuthbertson through yoga classes and asked her to apply Reiki to G.T. to try to make him feel better. “The first session lasted about an hour. She got right in the stall with him. You can’t force something on someone if they don’t want it, but he didn’t move,” says Dowell. Instead he yawned, smacked his lips a lot and hung his head. “That meant he was being submissive and responding to the treatment,” Dowell said.
Reiki a combination of two Japanese words ‘Rei’ (God’s Wisdom) and ‘Ki’ (life force energy) is spiritually guided life force energy. “It’s good for physical problems, pain, healing from surgery and emotional stress,” says Cuthbertson. A pet in a new home or who has lost his owner can benefit as much as a dog with arthritis. Pets benefit even more than humans, who are more likely to become logical or analytical and thus block healing. “I set an appointed time and have the animal lie down,” says Cuthbertson.
Cuthbertson starts off by asking the animal’s permission to touch him. “I feel the answer, yes or no, as either a feeling of energy flowing between us (yes) or resistance in my gut ( no).” I create my intention to offer them healing in whatever capacity is right for them for the day reiki heals all levels of being-physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Then I start by putting my hands in a prayer position to allow the energy to build in my hands and create the intention that I open to the flow of reiki. Sometimes they just flat out lie down in front of me and want me to get to work! While they’re lying down, I do the healing, then I set up a time to discuss what I picked up during the session with the owner.“
According to Cuthbertson, dogs will generally lie down. Cats will either sit on her lap or lie on the ground or in their beds. Horses remain standing. When animals begin to release stress and let more reiki in, they will commonly yawn, stretch or for horses, hang their heads. Afterwards the animals sometimes sniff Cuthbertson’s hands to see where the energy is coming from. And while they can’t talk, animals often show Cuthbertson what’s ailing them. “A cat I was working on rolled so I could do Reiki on her belly. It turned out she had pancreatic cancer and she was showing me where the treatment was needed.“
A typical first session lasts from 20 minutes to a half hour. “Pets have a shorter attention span,” says Cuthbertson. “They’re like kids. When they’re done, they’re done.” Animals immediately become relaxed. Many fall asleep afterwards. Cuthbertson likens Reiki to acupuncture without the needles. It gets energy to flow through the meridian. In senior pets especially, energy is more sluggish and gets “stuck.” Reiki eases discomfort in joints and has a calming effect. Cuthbertson doesn’t even have to be physically present to transmit the healing power. “People call from all over the world.”
"To me, it’s a magic pill,” says Reiki Master Lisa Shaw, based in Davie, Florida. “When you’re giving Reiki, you become a channel for the energy and receive it as well. We’re functioning as a conduit for the universe.” When Shaw works with an animal, she starts with the head and works down the body. She works an inch or so away from the pet. “You don’t force the energy anywhere. By the time I get past the head, they’re deeply relaxed and often fall asleep before I finish.” Shaw likens the effect to “how you feel after you’ve had a massage.” Reiki is also performed on pets near the end of life to make the transition more graceful. As a trained grief counselor, A majority of pet owners who call Shaw want their pets to have Reiki to ease the transition.
Cat owner Judith Arney of Vancouver Island, British Columbia contacted Cuthbertson when her cat Audrey was attacked by crows outside her home and was afraid to go outside. Cuthbertson performed reiki on Audrey during an arranged session via a photograph. “She had gone through psychological trauma and while Nikki was working on her, you could tell Audrey was getting calm,” says Arney. “She was able to visibly relax.”