Giving the Gift of Reiki to Dogs in a Kill Shelter

The first time I entered into a rescue facility to offer Reiki was in a kill shelter.  For the dogs and cats there, there is limited time to succeed in finding adoptive homes.  Once that time is up, if there is no other shelter with room to take them in, these animals will lose their lives.

It was a large place with at least 40 dogs and at least as many cats.  In the section housing dogs, there were massive junk yard dogs that had never been socialized or trained.  Then there were the fearful ones, the dogs who cower and shake, and walk with their hind quarters low to the ground, their tails between their legs.  Many demonstrated extreme vocalizations and repetitive behaviors to release their anxiety.  Some were simply so shut down that they were unresponsive to any stimuli whatsoever, as if they just simply didn’t wish to be in this world any longer.

There was a time around mid-day when the staff and volunteers would shut the doors to visitors and head off to have a bite of lunch.  This was a time when the animals might get a breather, when they might be receptive to the presence of only one human quietly offering Reiki.

Before entering, I spent a few minutes with quiet breathing, with grounding and centering.  I then brought in the beautiful healing Reiki energy that I would offer to these dogs for their highest wellbeing and their greatest peace and ease.

I opened the door as quietly and slowly as possible.  I walked as quietly and slowly as possible.  No sound.  They are resting and sleeping.  They have stopped the chaos for a few moments of calm. 

I came to the corner for the first long corridor of kennels.  I stood there, just out of sight, breathing in the light and the quiet healing energy of Reiki.  I opened my heart and my hands to share.  I felt the energy flow and expand to reach each dog in its kennel. 

And then I just had to peak my head around the corner to see if anyone was there.

Three little bodies were sitting at the very front of their kennels, looking right at me.  And then as I watched, a fourth showed up.  And then a fifth.  And then, BAM.  One of them decided it was time to make some noise.  Uncertainty, fear, vocalization.  One barks, then another barks, then they all wake up, and four or five or six – or ten - begin to bark. 

The ones who were barking were like those of us who are experiencing our pain in such a way that we have to share it by barking out to others.  To show that we are tough and strong and even leaders of the pack.  We are uncomfortable, we may have been abused or neglected, and we are trying to protect ourselves by striking out in a show of self-preservation.  We’re nervous and anxious and want to be somewhere else, but we have no control over where we are or what is happening to us.

It was very hard at first to withstand the pain and fear and anxiety coming from these vocal ones.  But I knew that Reiki would go to where it was needed most, and if I kept my heart-centered love and compassion flowing, healing would take place in ways I would never see or know or understand.

And then it happened.  After about 10 minutes or so, one stopped barking.  Then the next.  Then the next.  It took a while but it was happening.  Finally, the one who was the most insistent, the most anxious, the bark leader, this last one stopped barking.  And sat.  And his big face was pressed up against the front of the kennel.  And I saw his shoulders relax, and his neck relax, and he laid down and put his head between his paws.

And there was silence.  And there was compassion.  And there was peace.

We shared the beautiful loving healing energy of Reiki together, for the first time.  And it changed my life forever.  If these deeply crippled hearts and bodies were able to receive and feel the healing flow of Reiki the very first time, then they were the ones to show me, to show us, how the extraordinary hearts of animals can teach the art of healing and forgiveness to the very humans who wish to offer it to them. 

In this sacred space of love and compassion and gentleness, all things are possible.  Love is possible.  Forgiveness is possible.  And the teacher becomes the student.