This is my Old Dog Muffin, taken in the last few months of her life. Still very photogenic…
In praise of rescue dogs
OUR RESCUE DOG, Muffin, was always an anxious creature. No wonder – given the woeful circumstances of her early life: kept half-starved in a high-rise flat, along with a pack of other desperate, neglected dogs. She cried alot when we first rescued her, via the RSPCA. She was terrified of being left alone, yet did not know how to co-exist, either with humans, or with other dogs. But with time and patience and kindness, Muffin grew to be an intuitive, exuberant, extravagantly loving pal to the whole family. She was the inspiration for the last book I wrote, Old Dog, and, seven years after her death, she remains a lodestar for all that I might wish for, in a canine companion.
Meditation and Miles Davis
The last years of Muffin’s long life were compromised by ill health – heart problems, a stroke, and arthritic hips. But she retained her humour, her greedy appetite – for food and for life – and her love for us, right to the end. During her time in our family, I turned to a serious study of meditation. There was ill health in the household, as my husband Tim was terminally ill with cancer, and I needed help to deal with the pall of death and dying, that hung over all our heads for so long (ten years in all). As well as being a brilliant nurse-companion to Tim – sensitive to his depressive moods and his suffering, and enthusiastic, always, to walk with him through the woods and to play silly games – Muffin turned out to be an expert meditator.
Despite her skittishness, the dog also had a propensity – a deep longing, even – for relaxation and calm. It was not long before she got the hang of it. And better than I, indeed, with my mad-chattering-tormented-human-mind. As soon as the meditation bowl was struck and I sat in contemplation, she would come and lie beside me, drifting into a deeply quiet, almost semi-conscious state. She loved it. (She was also a great fan of Miles Davis, and the Kind of Blue album would invariably send her into a serene jazz hypnosis within minutes of it starting: but that’s another story.)
Reiki for Animals
I am sad that I was not a Reiki practitioner when Muffin was still alive. (See Reiki In Leeds to find out more about the technique). I wonder if the deep aches and pains she suffered in her dotage, as well as her hyper alert, ‘fight or flight’ personality, hardwired from her deprived early life, would have found some relief, through some warm, hands-on Reiki? Judging by her response to simple meditation, I suspect she would have enjoyed it. For, at its foundation, Reiki is indeed a meditative process: its aim, simply to be quiet, calm and focussed; allowing the natural vitality within and without us, to flow, via the hands, with a kind and restoring intent.
My sense is that many animals, unpolluted by the constant questioning and judging that weighs down human minds, might love Reiki, and benefit greatly from its gentle support and connection. I don’t practise professionally on animals myself – though there are many who do, and who have considerable success in their work.
Donkeys love a moment of relaxation
Dogs and horses seem to feel a particular benefit from Reiki. A practitioner in West Yorkshire, Sue Malcolm, sends through bulletins from time to time, about her work with rescue animals, via Friends of Baxter Animal Care . One charming account – with photographs of donkeys in an animal sanctuary lining up to receive group Reiki, and then spontaneously lying down next to one another, so chilled and relaxed did they become – particularly moved me. Where is the harm in this – however sceptical you might feel about Reiki? To help an abused animal experience some moments of deep calm and comfort, is demonstration of real compassion. It’s a world I want to be part of.
Dogs in the zone
Sometimes, surreptitiously, I lay my hands on friends’ dogs, just to gauge their reaction. I do ask permission, both from owner (verbally) and from dog ( they let me know either way, through simple body language). This happened once at a book group I belong to. The dog of the household is a lovely black labrador, very friendly and gregarious. She was happy to let my hands rest on her – and pretty soon wafted off into a deep and inert state, despite the many people in the room vying for her attention. After a while, she quietly got up, walked away from me, and took herself off to another room, and to her bed. Normally very sociable, this time the Reiki told her something different. Go to sleep. Rest. You are off duty now. The next time I saw her, many weeks later, she came right up to me and sat expectantly by my side, waiting for my hands to rest on her again.
Taking a big breath out
The second dog I approached, was a very different character. He had come to visit us for the afternoon. A big dog – and boisterous – he wears about him a permanent air of good cheer and excitement. He has his own problems – a skin complaint that creates a maddening itch, arthritic ankles, and a tendency to pant restlessly, making relaxation sometimes hard to achieve. There has been shock and bereavement in his household in the past – and his big heart has inevitably taken a hit from that experience.
I hardly expected him to settle when I sat beside him. And for a long time he didn’t. He panted and wriggled and wanted to play. But I left one hand on his back, and one on his flank, and waited. The panting continued. His heart beat fast. His tongue lolled and he thrashed about a bit, as usual. But then – all of a sudden – the panting stopped dead. He took a deep, deep sigh – and lay perfectly still. Some minutes later came another sweet, deep sigh. I moved away from him. He stayed where he was. There was a sense of calm and of peace in his big, shaggy, jovial old body. When it was time to take him home, I had to work to wake him up again. And this I hadn’t expected – that he would take the Reiki so easily and so completely. That he would find such tranquillity.
But in the end, that’s all we’re after really, isn’t it – humans and animals both? A chance to breathe more freely, and to enjoy a few moments peace in a demanding and pressurised world. I don’t think it will be long before I sit beside another dog, and enjoy some of those peaceful moments with them, through the quiet and unobtrusive power of Reiki.
If you would like to book a (human!) Reiki session with me, please go to my Reiki in Leeds page for details.
Kathleen Prasad has written alot about working with animals and Reiki. Visit her website here: https://www.animalreikisource.com