Reiki - A Dog's Journey Toward Alternative Healing

Gibson getting ready for his distance Reiki treatment

As many of you know, I recently held an auction for Canine Epilepsy Awareness. One of the many items so generously donated was a 30-minute Reiki session with animal massage therapist and Reiki practitioner Marta Banat of All Paws Massage in Vancouver, Canada, who as you recall, was also my wonderful guest speaker on “The Sibe Vibe” back in August.  I bid on the session – and was thrilled when I won!

Marta's room in Canada.
Now I’ve always been intrigued by the practice of Reiki. I have a friend who became a practitioner years ago, before alternative therapies such as this were in the spotlight, and I always wondered about it. Quite honestly, when she told me what she did, and explained she healed through her hands, I thought it was a bit, well, hokey. But, fast forward about five years. Gibson has his first seizure, and then five more a month later and was put on anti-seizure meds. Then, three years ago about six months after two life-threatening emergency surgeries, I started becoming ill and after much testing, I was diagnosed with degenerative rheumatoid arthritis. Before I agreed to a strict daily injection medication regimen, that would “probably” not “possibly” have some serious side effects, I told the rheumatologist that I first needed to digest what he just told me and do some research of the disease for myself. My own physician was telling me that I would be crippled, in great pain, and on heavy narcotics to try to deal with the pain and need to make a decision to "stop playing around" with alternative methods. And, as if that wasn’t harsh enough, I was also advised that it would eventually move into my organs – like my heart and brain. And recently, I've had bouts of it affecting my eyes. (Ouch).  I'll admit it, I was scared. Still am a bit. But, being a journalist by trade, I did my research. I’ve always been aware of alternative therapies. My own mother has been on the cusp of that for almost 30 years with chiropractic care and vitamin therapy. Then, about 10 years ago, when she was in her 80s, she started acupuncture. Again, I was leary. As a journalist, I deal in facts and research. Tangible evidence. Things I can see and touch and experience for myself...

  “Reiki is an ancient Japanese form of gentle and non-invasive energy healing..." ~Marta Banat

Watching my mother week after week, to this very day (and she’s 93.5), I have witnessed firsthand the positive effects of alternative therapy. Her amazing acupuncturist has now been mine for the past three years and we have many talks about nutrition, and "chi energy." This then led me to do more research and discover that in both the canine and human world, successful alternative therapies are being explored, more and more every day. So I began examining alternative healing treatments with Gibson. Since he suffers from side effects from his Epi-meds with lethargy, hind end weakness that resulted in two torn CCLs, vomiting, etc., I decided to add some holistic and non-invasive alternative treatments – vitamin supplements, coconut and omega oils, and laser therapy to his regimen.  What I’ve seen him overcome over the past few years is nothing short of amazing. But then again – if you were to ask the folks who administer these holistic treatments, they will tell you that they knew it would help all the long.

So why are we so resistant to trying something…different? Something alternative? Acupuncture, vitamins, and laser therapy have proven to be very successful with humans, and is now having great results in the canine world. Just look at Gibson. But Reiki? And I’m not talking about hands-on Reiki. I can understand that – that makes more sense to me than “distance” Reiki, where the practitioner is logistically elsewhere and not in the same room – or even state – as you and your pet. In Gibson’s case, Marta is located in Canada. But I've seen and experienced enough over my lifetime to know that just because I can't "see" it does not mean it won't work. Life force is quite something special - and while we may not see it, it's there, working all the time.

So how does distance Reiki work? What was it like? What did we have to do? Was it via telephone or Skype? And more importantly, did it do anything? These are most likely your top questions. They sure were mine! So I asked Marta if we could both take photos of the “before” areas to show how our half-hour session was set up, and then I would follow-up with Gibson's and my experience. And like any good story, you won’t find out the answers to your questions until the end! Instead, I’d like to take you along on a virtual journey of how our experience with distance Reiki was. Up front, I want to say that I did not ask Marta what to expect because I wanted to go in and have my own experience and not be predisposed to any ideas or suggestions. 

Marta with her Sibe Rocco & a client
First, just exactly what is Reiki? According to Marta in her AllPawsMassage website, "Reiki is an ancient Japanese form of genlte and non-invasive energy healing, which is based on the premise that universal life energy is present. This healing energy is channeled through the practitioner's hands to assist with self-healing, releasing energy blocks, easing pain and discomfort."

Sounds good to me!

To start, I selected a few special photos of Gibson that really connect with me on some level and I sent them up to Marta so she could have a focal point, I imagine, as a point to direct her healing energies. Marta says to make the room you and your dog are in calm and peaceful. This means unplugging - phones, TV, alarms, and/or ringers. Then think "relaxation." It’s all about being calm and bringing yourself, which then moves your dog, into a relaxed state. If your dog enjoys snoozing on his favorite bed, then have the bed there. Soft music can play. Candles can be lit. (With epileptic dogs, it may be best to skip the candles as the fragrance can be a trigger). 

Gibson and Mommy 
So what I did was set up Gib’s bed. I did close the blinds, and turned on warm white Christmas lights to give a nice subtle glow. I had a nice mug of my favorite coffee nearby, and I put soft ambient music on that was native in theme – flute and wind chimes, with a little ocean waves thrown in (the ocean and water always brings me peace). I was ready. My nature also has been that I will do whatever I can to help my boy live a happy, healthy life and hopefully try to counteract any issues he has as a result of his epilepsy medications. I was into this. It, actually, is right up my alley as far as if I could will my boy better, I would. So now not only was I channeling that into my dog, but I now had professional backup in Canada. Gibson was  ready, too. Already relaxed from his earlier laser treatment, he was nice and comfy on his bed. I started out on the sofa right behind him so I could reach down and be able to touch him. Right before it was our session time, I sent Marta a photo of Gibson and his area so she could have the visualization of how he looked right at that moment when she was to begin, and she sent me photos of the area where she would be - a cozy chair on a hardwood floor by a window where the beautiful crisp white Canadian snow could be seen beyond, a howling wolf statue poised nearby, and lots of greenery. I really liked her space. I could see myself actually entering the room and enjoying spending some relaxing time there.

At this point, I was really starting to enjoy the whole preparation process. I mean, how many of us take the time to purposely prepare a space and time to just relax? I had just come off of closing the recent epilepsy awareness auction, I was hip-deep in packages, bubble wrap, markers, labels, boxes, and items to be sent out. My couch and floor were not even visible! I had also been on marathon editing sessions on a book I had been writing up, and November was all about promoting Epilepsy awareness, which was daily posts and article. Needless to say, I needed some peace myself. To, as Kevin Costner's character says in the movie "The Love of the Game," to focus, to blur out all surrounding interferences, to  "clear the mechanism." So the entire process of preparing the room, Gibson, and my mind was very relaxing in itself. Plus, there is something very comforting about knowing someone was out there sending such positive vibes our way.

Now, Gibson was relaxed on his bed and I settled in at first next to hip on the couch, touching his back and gently petting him in the areas I knew could use some healing. When it was 2 o’clock, my mind settled right in. I visualized Marta in her chair in her room that was in the photo she had sent me. I did not think about anything other than Gibson and tuning in to the low ambient music I was playing. The soulful sounds of the flute with blowing wind chimes and the ocean waves in the background really added to the relaxing mood, and Gibson really seemed to enjoy it as well. I could feel myself wanting to doze off as I kept gently petting Gibson’s hind end and hips and legs, the areas that he has weakness, injury, and arthritis in. I pictured myself in Marta's room with Gibson as though we were having an in-person session.

About halfway through, I moved down to lay next to him. I pet his velvety soft face and at times, took his head into my hands. Then went back to letting him lay his head on my shoulder while I continued to pet him. He stretched out at one point, totally relaxed. Now, again the journalist in me was looking for signs. A static electric zap. A flash of light. Maybe a bell jingling. I really was not sure what or if I’d sense anything, or if I was even supposed to. I continued on with my in-tune bonding with Gibson. I noticed on two occasions, his hind leg quivering. Gibson’s leg sometimes quivers after I take him for a rehab walk and he comes back and sits on his bed. I know it’s his muscles reacting to being worked. In this instance, he not only had laser therapy, but he had been relaxing on his bed now for almost three hours. So why was his leg quivering? My thought – his body feeling the energy being directed his way? 

Then, a few minutes before the session time was up, Gibson lifted his head and began kissing me. I mean really kissing and licking me non-stop. Gibson is not typically a big kisser or licker. He will give an occasional little Gibbie kiss, or a what I refer to as a “Gibbie Nibbie” which is a little friendly nibble. But non-stop kissing? No, that just wasn't his style. Gibson and I communicate. Always have. And right then, I had the feeling he was telling me he was pretty darn happy. I made note to mention both of these occurrences to Marta to see if there was any universal meaning.
A million Gibbie kisses

What Marta told me was that “he was open to the energy I was sending his way, and as the energy ebbs and flows, there are times when the connection is stronger” and that often at its “peak” is when something tangible can be noticed, such as Gib’s quivering leg. Makes sense.

Next was her response to his sudden burst of continuous kissing, another thing that I noticed that was atypical of Gibson. She said -- and this one made me tear up – that she closes each session with “love and gratitude.” Could Gibson feel that? It would appear so! “It’s the beautiful circle of love,” stated Marta. And I’m tearing up at that even as I write this; it’s a beautiful circle of love indeed.

And the cherry on top of this healing sundae? Typically Gibson will doze after his laser therapy sessions for about an hour-and-a-half to two hours, and then he wants to go outside. And after the Reiki session? Gibson stayed sleeping until 6:30 PM, when I had to wake him up for his evening pre-meds snack and vitamin! He stayed right beside me on his bed for four full hours! Coincidence? Maybe, but I don’t believe so. I believe it was directly connected to the experience. And being in tune with my dog, he told me something was different...something he felt that made him obviously happy and very relaxed. My only wish? That there was a shortcut from our house in New York to Marta's in Canada!

There are so many things in this world we do not know or understand. Sometimes there is a fear of the unknown, fear of something that is metaphysical instead of physical. But life IS energy. We ARE energy. So why couldn’t someone who is trained in channeling energy direct it to where it needs to go? And there has been documented cases where treatments such as Reiki have made a marked improvement to the recipient, both canine and human.

We’ve heard many instances where visualization helps heal patients of catastrophic diseases, such as cancer, and also helps in managing pain. According to an article on written by Rekha Shrivastava, a certified rehabilitation therapist located in Rochester, New York who received her Master’s degree in Psychological Development, there is a direct connection. “Research has a lot of evidence about the mind body connection and how healing can begin when we use our mind," she states. "People who go through surgeries, people who have terminal illness and suffer from excruciating pain, can learn to use the healing power of mind. Medications can do only so much, but when we supplement it with other tools, it speeds up the process of healing. One needs to tap into the powerful mind-body connection. Mind is a powerful healing tool.”

I have been a total believer of visualization since my youth. Recuperating from surgery. After an injury.  To help de-stress. When I receive my acupuncture (deep needling and cupping) treatments for my RA, I use ambient music and visualization to help me overcome the pain, as well as “visualizing” myself stronger, like my younger self was. Though I usually think of it as the “power of positive thinking,” but are they not in all actuality both the same concept?

Shrivastava  goes on to explain, “For example, when we do visualization, it creates a change in our body, which Dr. Herbert Benson called, 'Relaxation Response.' This is the opposite of the stress response known as 'fight or flight response.'"

Again, makes perfect sense to me.

Kathie Lipinski a holistic nurse from Long Island, New York, explains in depth in an article on, about distance Reiki, which is what I shared with Gibson through Marta. Lipinski talks about the human energy field and visualization. You can read more at

So why does Reiki work? Marta explains, “The universal energy, Reiki, knows no boundaries, time or distance. The most important aspect of Reiki healing is the intention of the practitioner and the openness of the recipient. The practitioner is merely a facilitator who creates the opportunity for self healing. It is the recipient who is the true agent of their own self healing journey, intuitively allowing the energy to travel where it needs to and heal what needs healing."

So, would I do it again? Absolutely.

 "I like this Reiki stuff,  Mom."



  1. We have heard lots of wonderful things about this and your experience was amazing. Hugs to you sweet Gibson.

  2. Thanks for sharing this interesting experience. Good luck to you and Gibson.

  3. Wow! This was so interesting! I have not heard of any of this nor experienced it, so thank you for this.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  4. Reiki is a powerful tool. Love that you did it with your Gibson. Some pets find the energy too much for their souls; but your boy was clearly very tuned to you and the energy in your heart.


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