I adopted Freedom, a rescue dog, about 3 years ago. I describe her as a cat in a dog’s body because she is not very social and doesn’t need a lot of attention. She just sleeps, eats, drinks LOTS OF WATER, and walks to me when she wants a minute of petting/playing. When I adopted her, I worked full time, so she was a perfect fit for my home.
In December 2019, I noticed some changes in her behavior and made an appointment with my veterinarian. She was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease and because she’s a larger dog, the treatment was cost-prohibitive. I felt guilty because I wasn’t able to medically care for her, which led me to seek out other options. The search brought me to Reiki.
I first came across Human Reiki and completed Levels 1 and II. When I first started using Human Reiki with Freedom, she had no trouble letting me know when she had no interest in such. She would often give me a side stare/side-eye and sometimes she would just get up and walk away from me. Human Reiki Level 1 requires hands to be on or very close to the person or animal. My dog was not appreciating the “hands-on” approach. So, I continued researching Reiki and practicing Human Reiki for myself and with loved ones.
During this period, I came across the Let Animals Lead® Method of Animal Reiki created by Kathleen Prasad. I took a brief introductory course on this method and really connected with the approach. I loved that the animal gets to consent to the treatment, humans do not place hands on the animal, and it is a practice I “share” with my dog rather than “do” to my dog (e.g., “I’m doing Reiki to Freedom.”). After the introductory course, I signed up for the 8-week training course in the Fall of 2021 and haven’t looked back.
During the time I was researching Reiki, Freedom was doing okay given her diagnosis. Then in the summer of 2021, Freedom was going to the veterinarian monthly due to GI distress and, during this time, also had lab work performed to rule out any additional issues. My veterinarian concluded at the end of each visit that the GI distress was likely related to her Cushing’s Disease. Her lab work also showed that her liver enzyme was significantly elevated, which is expected for a dog with Cushing’s Disease. It was at this time when I enrolled in the Let the Animals Lead® Method of Animal Reiki training course. As I started practicing this method with Freedom, I noticed small changes. At first, she wanted to be around me when we practiced, but she was panting, her ears tucked behind her. My instructor suggested giving her more space so she knew she could leave if she wanted to. Even when I did that, she still wanted to be around me when we practiced. As we progressed in the course, her panting stopped and she came up to me when we practiced, and one time, she placed paw on me as she looked at me, which she had never done before. (Remember she’s not a cuddler!) By the end of the 8-week training course, Freedom was often laying in the very spot I sat in when we practiced Reiki and was falling asleep during the session!
At the end of my training, Freedom was due for her annual wellness exam. I shared Reiki with her throughout the length of our stay at the veterinarian’s office. I was surprised that she laid down but was not facing the door, as she typically is eyeing the exit. I was also surprised when she let another dog walk up to her and sniff her back paw without showing any signs of distress. She also didn’t snarl or bark at any of the other dogs we had to walk by as we were brought to the exam room.
The veterinarian was pleased to see that she hadn’t been ill for several months (again the same months she and I were practicing the Let Animals Lead® Method daily). When the labs returned, they were in normal range except for a liver enzyme that has been elevated since her diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease. However, the level of the liver enzyme dropped by 80 points. When I asked why that may have dropped, given I had not engaged in any traditional interventions–diet change, supplements, medications–except the Let Animals Lead® Method, the veterinarian did not have an answer or any hypotheses. I also asked him, for a dog that looks ill and is exhibiting physical features of a Cushing’s dog, is it typical to have labs still be in the normal range this far into her diagnosis (approximately one year)? He paused and looked at her and stated, “for a dog that looks so profoundly Cushing’s (e.g., pot belly, significant loss of fur, significantly darkened skin across her body), you would expect to see something in her labs by now”.
It’s been 2 months since that appointment, and I continue to practice this method with her daily. She has not needed to go to the veterinarian for any medical issues to date. Also, when I take her out for walks, she doesn’t bark at any of the other dogs that may be outside. She just looks at them and keeps walking. Prior to practicing this method with her, she would bark at any dog she saw at any distance–even across the street. If a dog walks toward us, I often move her to the side to let the dog pass. As it passes, she does not snarl or bark at the dog. Instead, she sniffs as the dog walks past her and when she’s done sniffing, we continue our walk.
So, this is where we are today…daily practice of the Let Animals Lead Method® of Animal Reiki and her first long-distance road trip. Although I’m not sure how she’s going to handle a road trip, I do know I have Reiki with me and will continue to share it with her each day.
By SARA Practitioner Maggie Graeber
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