The shelter dog had clearly been neglected in his past. His coat was dull, and his eyes stared blankly into space as he barked continuously. The staff asked me to please try to help calm him, since he had been hysterically barking since he had arrived. I sat quietly outside his kennel, put in my earplugs and took a deep breath. I imagined the energy of the earth flowing up through my body, grounding and centering me, and mentally offered the dog some healing energy, if he chose to connect with me. I closed my eyes and inside my mind imagined myself in a quiet, beautiful place.
Peace, safety and harmony: I held these three words in my heart. I imagined how the dog looked when he was calm and perfectly relaxed. I imagined I could embrace him with love from my heart. Sure enough, as I’ve seen in so many Reiki treatments, after a few moments the dog stopped barking and stared intently at me. A few more moments passed and he lay down in the kennel, took a deep breath and rested his head on his front paws. Silence had never felt so golden.
Reiki, a system that creates relaxation and stress-relief, is a wonderful way to support the healing journey of rescued dogs and to support ourselves as we walk this path with them. The name Reiki, pronounced “ray-key,” comes from the Japanese words “rei” meaning spirit and “ki” meaning energy. It is usually translated as “universal life energy.” Reiki is about being able to hold a space of balance within ourselves-even in the midst of a chaotic or troublesome situation. If we can practice maintaining this kind of inner balance and calm in our own lives, we will see a ripple effect in all that we do. In working with rescued dogs, we can see them responding to our inner state of balance in a positive way, becoming calmer and more peaceful. We can also see our relationship with them going much deeper.
The Five Precepts
Reiki as a healing modality is a meditative art. It is simply about focusing one’s compassionate intention to support another being. When using Reiki to heal a dog, for example, the practitioner simply sets an intention to facilitate the healing process of the dog and then allows Reiki to flow in whatever amount the dog wishes to receive and for whatever he or she needs most.
Reiki is ideal for use with animals because effectiveness is not dependent upon physical contact. The animal controls the treatment, accepting Reiki in the ways that are most comfortable, either hands-on or from a distance, or a combination of the two. Easy for anyone to learn and use, Reiki can do no harm, even when used by the most novice practitioner. It always goes to the deepest source of the problem and always supports a path toward balance and harmony. Since we often don’t know a rescued animal’s past, with Reiki we can simply allow the energy to flow where it will, knowing that a healing shift toward balance will occur.
The five Reiki precepts for balanced living, taught by the founder of the system, Mikao Usui, are as follows:
Just for today …
Do not anger.
Do not worry.
Be honest in your work.
Be compassionate to yourself and others.
These precepts are not only the foundation for self-healing in the system of Reiki, but can also be used as guides when working with rescued animals.
- Just for today do not anger. Working with rescued dogs can be very difficult when we see the results of past abuse or neglect. We can begin to feel ourselves becoming very angry about how the dog was treated, what he had to go through and so on. This anger at the dog’s situation can spiral into anger about the world as a whole and anger toward humanity’s treatment of dogs in general. Pretty soon we can find ourselves encompassed in a bubble of anger. This anger will merely distract us from our primary goal, which is to help the dog. If we are angry, the dog will sense that and not want to connect with us. If we can focus instead on our desire to help the dog, our anger can be mitigated by our compassion.It can also help us to see the dog with our heart instead of our eyes. If we can see deeper into the very essence and spirit of the dog-see that shining star just waiting to brighten our life-it will be easier to work through any difficulties we face with patience and calm. When we approach our rescued dog with this kind of inner peace, everything will flow toward healing much more easily.
- Just for today do not worry. When working with a rescued dog, we can find ourselves dealing with many health problems. We might rescue a dog suffering with Parvo, kennel cough or some physical injury from past abuse or neglect. As we nurture the dog toward healing, we may find ourselves worrying: worrying about other problems that might manifest, about how and if the dog will be able to fully heal from illness and injury and so on. We also might worry about our rescued dog being able to fit into our family, especially if we know the dog has faced difficult and traumatic events in the past. Worrying and fretting about things beyond our control is not helpful for us or the dog.
- If we can again look deeper into the heart and spirit of the dog to see him as already healed, we can help our dog find the hope and courage to get better. We can, for example, see how shiny their coat must have once been, how they would look with proper weight on their bones. We can imagine they are breathing freely and running with strength and vigor across our yard. When we begin to look at our dog for who he really is, he, too, will see us for who we really are, and the relationship can deepen. And in that deepening of trust, the healing of the heart begins. This is where it all starts for the rescued dog-with healing of the heart.
- Be humble. Working with a rescued dog can bring us back into humility. We might have thought initially we were the one doing the “rescuing”- and yet as we create a new and loving relationship with this dog, we might find that our lives are forever changed for the better. We may find our hearts opening more than we had ever thought possible. In working through the healing journey of our rescued dog, me may learn about ourselves and in so doing, find that we are better people for it. And so one day we may realize that it is we who were rescued by this dog. We find ourselves humbled by their capacity to heal and forgive, to let go of the past, and to move forward into a new future with courage, joy and selfless devotion. If only we could learn to live our lives as a rescued dog lives his.
- Be honest in your work. Going through our lives, how often do we ask ourselves, what is our life’s work? When we work with a rescued dog, we are helping him to heal, nurturing him physically and emotionally, providing exercise, food and attention, and helping him to build a new beginning as a part of our family. We can realize that it is in this daily practice with him, where we devote ourselves single-mindedly to our task, that we find our heart’s true calling. In helping this dog to heal from the past and live his life surrounded in love, we suddenly find that it is in this place that we are being truly honest in our work.
- Be compassionate to yourself and others. Helping a rescued dog is a very compassionate action, which I believe has a ripple effect out into the world. By working with rescued dogs in your life, you are not only helping that individual dog, but also making the world a better place by being a model for others. So first and foremost, be kind and gentle to yourself. In following your heart for the dogs who need you, you will develop and nurture the compassionate spirit within you.
Using Reiki in Animal Rescue
If you are a trained professional or volunteer involved in animal rescue, you may find yourself in unexpected situations with extreme stress and sometimes even danger. This can take a toll on your body, mind, emotions and spirit. Images and memories of what you have seen may stay with you long after you have left the scene. Here are some ways Reiki can help support rescuers’ health and the animals being rescued:
Preparing to go to the scene of the rescue and arriving on the scene: Breathe. Picture a calm and peaceful place in your mind. Keep this place with you in your heart as you go about your work.
Rescuing animals from the scene: Whatever issues the animals are manifesting, stay positive. Find affirmations to hold in your mind and heart depending on the animal. For example, for a very fearful dog, you might use the affirmation courage. For a dog that has been neglected, you might use the affirmation love.
After the rescue: Imagine you can breathe earth energy up from ground and into your heart. As you speak to the dog and spend time with him, see him with your heart-see through to his spirit and imagine he is already healed.
Many of us aren’t professional rescue workers, but choose instead to support rescue efforts by opening our homes to these animals and asking them to join our families. Here are some ways Reiki can support adopters and the rescued animals in their new homes:
Preparing to go to a shelter or rescue to adopt an animal: Set your intention that your heart is open to connect to the perfect animal for your home and family. Breathe earth energy into your heart to help you to stay grounded and centered. Try to listen to your heart as you meet each animal. Feel for that special heart connection-that animal will be your rescuer!
Bringing your new dog home: Your role will be to assist your new dog in healing old wounds and creating new beginnings. Use affirmations to help the energy stay positive and supportive as your dog adjusts and begins his new life. Remember to always see your dog as you know he is at his very essence-as perfectly in balance. Anything outwardly out of balance (illness, injury, behavior problems and so on) is simply a manifestation of wounds which you will help him to heal. In seeing and believing in his healing potential, you will help him to reach it.
Reiki teaches us that our role in dog rescue is not only an outward physical “doing” of the rescue. We can also nurture the healing of the dog’s body, mind and spirit in focusing our compassionate intention in a positive direction. Through the Reiki techniques of staying mindful of the precepts, remembering to connect to the earth and ground ourselves, using affirmations and seeing with our hearts, we are better able to stay in balance. And when we ourselves are in balance, we are better able to help our dogs.