As animal owners already know, pets can provide companionship and often times a much-needed mood boost. And beside them being cuddly companions, the National Institutes of Health report that pets may also "decrease stress, improve heart health, and even help children with their emotional and social skills." But as much stress-relief as Bingo or Spot might provide to their owners, they're not immune from it themselves. A Finnish study found that as many as 70 percent of dogs exhibit some sort of anxiety-related behavior, like noise sensitivity and compulsion. While there are many options that owners can utilize to help with that issue, some can be potentially invasive like medication. Radiant Paws Pet Massage Owner Jill Valuet said that reiki for pets can be a great, hands-off option.
"Reiki is very gentle and non-invasive, so what that means is that it can be totally hands-off with the dogs. So, a session to an outsider might look like I'm sitting in a room with a dog not doing anything, but really what's going on is I am in a meditative state with this dog, and I am channeling energy from the ground through me and into the dog, and, basically, it kind of acts like a battery for the dog, if you will," Valuet said. "The energy goes into them and recharges them and kind of boosts their own natural healing abilities, their own natural calming abilities."
Reiki originated in Japan and is a practice that Johns Hopkins describes as "energy healing, in which hands are placed just off the body or lightly touching the body, as in 'laying on of hands.' Reiki can also be done 'long-distance, as a form of prayer." And those who practice it regularly report feeling that, among other benefits, their anxiety is lessened. Though there are many versions of reiki's origin story, it is commonly agreed that Dr. Mikao Usui brought the practice into popularity in 1922. Valuet herself said that it wasn't until four years ago that she found out about the practice.
"And it wasn't until three years ago that I actually got certified in level two reiki [which gives students the ability to practice on others] — and just more for understanding of what it was than how I could use it," Valuet said. "At the time, I didn't understand how I could use it on other people, but then, when I started doing the dog massage, reiki just kind of seemed like a natural fit for that."
Through Radiant Paws Pet Massage, Valuet charges clients $40 for a half-hour reiki session and $75 when coupled with a massage for an hour-long experience. She said that both alone and in combination with massage, reiki brings about positive changes in her clients' dogs quickly.
"I have a client who is a large great Dane who is older in life, and [her owners] came to me wanting to do the energy work just to help her. They know she has some hip issues and just is not moving as well as she used to, so they wanted me to come in with the reiki and see what I could do to kind of boost her natural healing process," she said. "All of a sudden, [after sessions] she was using her voice more. … It was a positive sign because it meant she was feeling better and she was moving around more and she actually started running with her humans for a while. She was feeling so much better and had a better attitude overall."
And as successful as a single session can be, Valuet recommends that "like with human maintenance and chiropractic care, regular sessions are better." Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, Valuet would meet clients at their homes to complete sessions, but she's since moved to Bingo Pet Salon at 719 E Eleven Mile Road in Royal Oak. While a change from her previous setup, Valuet said the move to a single environment has allowed her to take standardized COVID-19 precautions.
"we're the only ones in the space at that time and I can make sure that everything is clean before and after," she said. "The humans aren't going to run into anybody else, and that way we can control everything to minimize exposure for everybody involved — and I can still create a decent space for the dogs to come and relax and not feel stressed out."
And even for those animals that don't seem to struggle with anxiety disorders, Valuet recommends giving the practice a try.
"A half-hour session is the equivalent of a half-hour walk, so for people who aren't able to walk their dogs as much as they want to or for dogs who have high energy, this works to disperse a lot of the energy and makes the dogs feel really relaxed," she said. "I had a client this week whose dog was a five-year-old lab with boundless energy and he had been barking all morning and interrupting her meetings and she couldn't get them to settle down. … The first thing I did was to ground him and that calmed him right down. … She said that he was quiet and sleepy and back to her normal dog for the rest of the day. So, it really does work and it's amazing what it can do to help these animals."
Learn more about reiki and how it could benefit your dog online at radiantpawspm.com.