Alternative therapies are nothing new for humans, but now an increasing number of people are turning to them to help their ailing pets. Nicky Solloway reports on the rise of reiki for animals.
When dog owner Lesley Hilton’s beloved collie collapsed several weeks ago with a suspected heart infection, the emergency vet told her she would have to be put down.
Determined not to let her dog die, Lesley turned to Leeds reiki healer, Jo Fryer and is now convinced that the alternative Japanese treatment is what helped to save her dog’s life.
And she is not alone. More and more pet owners are turning to complementary therapy to treat their animals’ ailments. According to a survey by Direct Line Pet Insurance, 14 per cent of the UK’s dog owners called an alternative therapist – with 30 per cent recommended to do so by their vet.
Lesley, a journalist from Leeds, says she was sceptical at first, but was amazed at the difference in Molly’s health following the reiki treatment.
“She collapsed out of the blue and quite literally couldn’t walk,” recalls Lesley. “We took her to the emergency vet and they kept her in. On the Monday morning a vet rang us and said ‘she’s not going to survive. Come in and we’ll put her to sleep’.”
At that point her dog was on a drip and she persuaded them to carry on with the antibiotics for a while longer to give them a chance to work.
“She wasn’t in pain. Had she been in pain things would have been different. We went in on the Monday afternoon and she was actually standing up. On the Wednesday morning they said ‘you can come and get her, we can’t do any more’ and I got the impression that they thought ‘well she’s 15, what do you really expect? She’s going to go home and die’.
“We went to fetch her and brought her home. She wasn’t eating. She was just lying in her bed and on antibiotics.
“We had to take her to our vet every day for an antibiotic injection and he said he was amazed she was alive and that if she was going to recover it would take months.”
Later that week a friend suggested she should try reiki. Though cynical at first, she decided to give it a go. She called Jo Fryer, an NHS manager in mental health, who works part-time as a reiki healer for animals and also runs an equine assisted coaching course.
Jo came over on the Saturday and found Lesley’s dog laying on the floor.
She started to treat her with the reiki by sweeping her hands over the dog and channelling “healing energy”.
“You are just channelling the energy,” says Jo. “It’s all about the chakra points really. A chakra point is like a cone of energy. You’re looking for any changes and can feel where energy is stagnant which could mean a problem or a blockage.”
As soon as she started the treatment, Lesley noticed a change in Molly.
“Molly perked up just like that, which is the only way I can describe it,” says Lesley. “She wobbled about the house and was very weak still, but literally from that point she started to get better and started to eat again.”
At the age of 15, Molly still has some health issues, including arthritis, but she seems to have made a full recovery from the infection and is back to her old self.
“I took her back to the vet after Jo had done her thing and he was absolutely stunned that she had recovered in that way, so much so that he didn’t charge us for seeing him,” says Lesley.
Jo has been practising reiki for four years and has the reiki master qualification. She treats people as well as pets, but prefers to work with animals. She uses reiki to treat dogs, cats and horses.
She decided to learn reiki to help a race horse she had adopted from France through the charity Equine Rescue and Re-homing, based in Norfolk. She said her first rescue horse, Jasper, was very weak and drained when he first arrived, but as he built up his energy he became difficult to handle.
“He had been left traumatised by his experiences and was a very strong-willed horse. He’s very big. He was a racer, a French trotter. It’s the equivalent of our racing really but they don’t gallop, they trot so they strap their legs and do all sorts of things to make them go faster without breaking their stride.”
They now have three horses from the rescue centre and Jo says reiki really helps to calm them down.
Jo, 42, who lives in Leeds and is married to a radiographer, has a six-year-old daughter who is also very interested in ponies.
“The thing about the energy healing is that you can do it without physically touching the person or the animal so in Jasper’s case because he was so adverse to any form of physical contact in the beginning, it was great just to have that as a tool to be with him.”
Though Jasper is not fit enough to be ridden, he helps out at Jo’s equine assisted coaching practice.
She believes a horse can tell someone’s emotional state and that spending time with a horse and getting someone to carry out simple tasks with the horse can help them come to terms with their problems, which can be anything from bereavement, depression or a lack of self-esteem.
“There is something about a horse that has the capacity to unlock things in people,” says Jo.
She also runs courses to teach pet owners to practice reiki on their own animals.
“It’s certainly not a replacement for veterinary treatment. Traditional veterinary medicine will treat the immediate physical trauma but what the energy healing is good at is the emotional trauma.
“Reiki is a system for helping people learn energy healing. I think anybody can do it.”