Tell a friend you're going to a life coach or for acupuncture, and you might not get much of a reaction. But tell him you're taking your pet for alternative medicine, and you'll get all sorts of questions and crazy looks. But unconventional techniques, supporters say, can be more effective than traditional medicine. One alternative treatment is Reiki, a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation. Its supporters say the technique also promotes healing. Treatments can be hands-on or from a distance and work on people, pets and even plants, says D. Clark Cady, 52, of St. Petersburg, who started out as a massage therapist in the mid 1980s and then moved on to different areas of spiritual and metaphysical healing. He now teaches Reiki classes.
Kendra Staley, 29, of St. Petersburg specializes in Reiki therapy for pets. Staley started riding horses when she was 4 and has been working with animals most of her life, training dogs and managing a horse farm. "I always knew I had a way with animals," she says. "People tell me I could take the most vicious dog and have him sitting on my lap."
For the past 1 1/2 years, she has been using Reiki to treat animals, including dogs with cancer and horses with broken legs.
How does Reiki work?
"Reiki is a stress-reduction technique," Cady says. "It's like a meditation that someone else does for you. Most illnesses are stress-induced or stress-enhanced, so you must reduce stress to heal . . . stress is a mild form of fear, so (when you're stressed) you're working in fear or defensive mode."
Reiki doesn't involve manipulation of tissues or cracking bones, he says. It doesn't involve changes in diet, exercise or medicine.
What's a typical pet-therapy session like?
"I go in, get acquainted with the animal . . . at their house, so they're comfortable in their own surrounding, and they won't feel as vulnerable," Staley says. Then she runs her hands over energy points, called chakras. If they're hot it means energy isn't flowing properly, she says. Staley then places her hands over the problem areas, and starts visualizing the energy flowing. She does that until she notices a cooling effect. Typically, a session lasts 30 to 40 minutes. For larger animals, like horses, it can take an hour. For cats and small dogs, it might take about 20 to 30 minutes. "Most times animals will lay down and go to sleep while I do this," she says.
How much does it cost?
Rates vary, typically $40 to $100 a session, plus a $10 to $20 driving fee depending on location. Staley recommends starting with a few days in a row, or weekly treatment, and then going on monthly maintenance. Reiki can also be performed for distance healing, for emergencies, during surgeries. A 15- to 20-minute session with Staley is $30.
What does Reiki work on?
It can help treat many ailments and or any general discomfort, Staley says. But Staley is quick to point out that Reiki isn't always a miracle cure.
What she can guarantee, she says, is that it will make the animal less stressed, happier. "It can't heal everything, it can't make pets live forever," she says. "But it makes it easier, takes away the (discomfort) . . . helps dying animals make the transition more peaceful."
How does someone become a Reiki practitioner for pets?
The techniques are the same, for people or pets, Cady says. Reiki is not taught through books and lectures. Instead, it's "passed on during an attunement" given by a Reiki master, Cady says. Cady is sanctioned through the International Center for Reiki Training, which offers classes throughout the country.
Is there anything owners can do on their own?
Staley says owners who are open to treatment, and really believe in it, often can detect trouble spots by feeling the heat. Pet owners also can get certified to practice Reiki: Level 1 certification can typically be achieved through one session with a certified master teacher.