|April 27. 2004
Aileen D'Angelo became a convert to
Reiki when she found it eased her severe joint pain.
For Ms. D'Angelo, who suffers from systemic lupus erythmetosis, pain
medications had proved ineffective. She was in the middle of a bad
flare-up, and a friend who is a practitioner of Reiki, a type of energy
healing, suggested that she give Ms. D'Angelo a treatment.
"I was a big skeptic, but I was in enough pain that I was willing to try
anything," Ms. D'Angelo recalled the other day. "About 20 minutes later,
I started feeling better."
Ms. D'Angelo would go on to become a Reiki practitioner and master
teacher. Yet it was an experience with her greyhound, George, that
defined the type of practice she would develop. She treats people, to be
sure, but she also works on dogs, cats, horses, birds, ferrets,
"anything four-footed, furry and feathered."
"I've even done an iguana," she said, laughing.
Reiki is on a growing list of holistic treatments that are gaining
popularity with the public and acceptance among a contingent of
mainstream health practitioners, including physicians and veterinarians.
A Japanese word meaning "universal life force energy," Reiki is a method
by which a trained person acts as a channel to receive healing energy,
which is spiritual in nature and comes from the universe. The
practitioner is said to pass the energy to the recipient. This can be
done via the hands, or, in the case of a practitioner trained in
distance healing, by thought.
Reiki is said to help alleviate a wide variety of physical and
psychological ailments, from headaches to cancer to depression. Many
believe the method works best in conjunction with traditional Western
medicine. There is no governmental license for practicing Reiki, but the
International Center for Reiki Training issues certificates to its
Ms. D'Angelo, 47, was so impressed with her own improvement that she
soon signed up for a Level 1 class and then started giving herself daily
treatments. She moved on to Level 2, which is said to allow a
practitioner to transmit the healing energy by thought. Then, Ms.
D'Angelo took a year of study with a master, in order become a master
Ms. D'Angelo recalled that her greyhound was near death when she
transmitted to him by thought the healing energy of Reiki. She had met
George through a rescue group. A retired racer, he was at a track in New
Hampshire during that first encounter "I fell in love," Ms. D'Angelo
George had yet to be neutered, so Ms. D'Angelo was told to pick him up
in a week, which would give him time to recover from the surgery.
Shortly after the procedure, she was informed that George had collapsed
and was bleeding internally. "I sat down and started sending him Reiki,"
Ms. D'Angelo recalled. The greyhound's condition turned around, and Ms.
D'Angelo has been giving him treatments ever since. George is now 10
When it comes to the array of holistic methods for treating ill health,
Dr. John J McDonnell, veterinary neurologist at the Tufts University
School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, keeps an open mind.
Dr. McDonnell treats many animals with seizure disorders. He said he is
willing to consider any approach that will diminish the frequency and
severity of seizures, which can arise from a variety of causes. A
treatment's measure of success is an improvement by 50 percent, Dr.
McDonnell said. Although Dr. McDonnell said he has not had experience
with Reiki, he is familiar with acupuncture, herbal remedies and
"One of the great things about those treatment modalities is they seem
to mesh well with Western medicine," he said. "I have animals that are
on Western, allopathic medications, as well as Eastern medications. They
seem to work better together than separately. It's almost a synergistic
Veterinarians have increasingly gotten involved in holistic approaches
in recent years, and the membership of the American Holistic Veterinary
Medical Association now stands at 900, according to Dr. Carvel G.
Tiekert, the organization's executive director. Members practice well
established methods, such as acupuncture and chiropractic, as well as
more obscure methods, including Bach flower remedies and magnetic
In Dr. Tiekert's view, Reiki, while certainly not new, seems to be
coming into its own. On the AHVMA Web site (www.ahvma.org),
87 members are listed as Reiki practitioners.
Dr. McDonnell's interest led him to attend a workshop on Reiki organized
earlier this year by two Tufts veterinary students, Rachel Russo and
Katie Cross. The students had formed a veterinary holistic medicine club
"One thing that is tremendous is that we are all working to help
animals," Dr. McDonnell said. "We all really, really want to help the
As with Ms. D'Angelo, Ms. Russo's pet played an important role in
convincing her of Reiki's effectiveness.
Ms. Russo's Lab, Zoe, had surgery on her knee. Pain medication wasn't
working, and Zoe was having a difficult time sleeping Ms. Russo's
mother, a Reiki master, suggested that she give Zoe a treatment.
"Within minutes my dog was fast asleep," Ms. Russo said. "That's when
Reiki had me."
Ms. Russo describes Reiki as "a very subtle form of healing." Now
trained to practice Reiki, Ms. Russo uses it on animals in intensive
"I'll sit with them for a half hour and put my hands on them," she said.
"It's very calming to them."
Ms. D'Angelo, meanwhile, runs her practice, Hoof, Paw and Claw Reiki,
out of her Worcester home. She also makes house, stable and kennel
calls. She charges $25 for a half-hour session and already is booking
appointments into July.
"I believe treatments like Reiki can serve as complements to the
traditional stuff," she said, echoing Dr. McDonnell. "I don't use the
phrase `alternative medicine.' I prefer the phrase `complementary