Originally published by New Jersey Monthly Magazine.
When told to relax, the 11-year-old black lab settles on a blanket on the living room floor of her Bedminster home. Her owner, Marie Roberts, 61, is a leadership and life coach and certified Reiki II practitioner who incorporates the holistic healing practice into the care of her ailing pet.
Reiki is a form of Japanese energy healing that usually involves either gentle touching or hovering the hands just above a recipient’s body. According to Reiki philosophy, the practice helps move and eliminate negative energy that blocks healing or creates stress. The therapy has been growing in popularity in the United States. Now many spas, hospitals and healing centers—and a growing number of pet-related businesses—offer the practice.
After Lilly’s diagnosis, she received Reiki treatment from JennaLee Gallichio of All Star Paws, a pet training business in Bedminster. “Right away,” says Roberts, “I knew Lilly could benefit from it.”
When Roberts finished her own Reiki II training in December, she started nightly 20-minute sessions with Lilly. Though she has been receiving chemotherapy, the dog shows no signs of chemo-related nausea, Roberts says, and her energy level has not declined.
“I believe not only in the Western medicine, but the holistic healing,” says Roberts, who gives Lilly probiotics and milk thistle in addition to her chemotherapy. “She is very strong, still wants to go on walks, and still loves her cookies.”
Roberts studied Reiki with Sue Ann Seccia-Harnden, owner of Hunterdon County-based Fifth Dimension Healing Energy, which treats people and animals. As a member of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association, Seccia-Harnden also works with Woodlands Wildlife Refuge in Pittstown, where the animals are as varied as reptiles, bears and raccoons.
“I work with wild, rehabilitating animals and with animals in shelters to help them calm down and, hopefully, help them get adopted,” says Seccia-Harnden. “Animals are incredibly open to this kind of energy.”
Roberts says that openness has been a boon for Lilly. “Animals intuitively respond,” she says. “They don’t have the mental questioning that people do when it comes to holistic healing. For Lilly, it just feels good.”