Prior to the passing of our companion rabbit Annabell in the spring of 2018, as my wife and I were trying to figure out why her health was suddenly deteriorating, we consulted with a veterinarian who performed minor chiropractic adjustments on Annabell during a visit.
It was a surprise at the time because it happened rather quickly and rather subtly—much more casually than, say, a person visiting a chiropractor, tensing up with anxiety prior to an adjustment of the neck.
However, it really shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise—as with people who seek out more natural, or holistic methods of treatment, there are individuals who explore these alternatives for animals as well.
Jessica Brandvold worked as a veterinary technician for about six months before realizing it wasn’t the experience she had hoped for.
“It wasn’t as hands on as I wanted,” she explained.
For the last five years, Brandvold has been getting that desired hands on experience through her work in animal massage. She said she was selective about the classes she took. They included Thersage EMC, an equine massage certification program in Wisconsin.
Brandvold began primarily with horses, hence the name of her practice: Y.E.S. Massage, or Yee-haw Equine Sports Massage (yesmassage.org or facebook.com/yesmassage). She eventually worked with other animals as well, like a dog suffering from Cushing’s disease.
“(The dog) would be able to take five steps before needing to lie down,” Brandvold recalled, adding that after working with the dog through massage, it would be able to walk for half a mile without issue.
Knowing that it can be difficult to get any kind of animal to be still, Brandvold attests that her calm demeanor is what makes her work possible. Working with a high-energy animal—like a puppy, for example—takes more effort.
“Once they figure out what’s going on, they usually collapse and let you do it,” she said.
Brandvold recalled one of her most challenging clients was a farm animal—a goat who, as she put it, was “essentially feral,” though she was able to get through to him too.
“He didn’t like being touched, but once he figured it out, he relaxed into it, and he’s much friendlier now.”
Brandvold said massage work, outside of the overall healing aspect, helps improve blood flow in her clients, releases endorphins and removes toxins from the body.
She primarily makes house calls for her work. “If the animal is unable to get into the car, it doesn’t help to shove them in and make them anxious,” Brandvold said. She also has an office in Rochester, and can commonly be seen at dog-friendly events in the area.
“I’ve had animals my entire life, and I have seen how medications work with pain management,” she said. “But I’ve also see the side effects of that—like liver or kidney damage. I want people to know that there are other alternatives.”
Working in different avenues of the Mayo Clinic, Stephanie Sutherland and Beth Ely connected over a number of shared interests, including natural and holistic methods of teaching (they became friends through the yoga class Sutherland teaches) and the giving and receiving of energy between people and animals.
Sutherland and Ely both have a strong belief in Reiki, a Japanese form of alternative medicine based around the idea of channeling healing energy through the palms of the practitioner to the patient.
It is sometimes regarded as a form of mindfulness meditation.
Ely said she began training in Reiki to help her kids settle down before bed.
“From there, it blossomed into many other things. I do Reiki for animals or get Reiki from animals when I’m around them—because you get attuned to universal life force energy, you’re able to more easily give and receive it with practice.”
She added she’s had previous experiences with animal communication as well.
“We think we are the ones taking care of the animals,” Ely continued. “But they are our guardians. They remind us that present moment is all that is.”
Sutherland called the path that led her to an interest in Reiki an “evolution,” beginning with work in martial arts, then yoga, then meditation, and now energy work.
“Through that, and working with people, it made sense that it was a natural fit with animals,” she continued.
Both women are proponents of trying natural and holistic approaches.
“Our automatic response is to put a pill to it, but there’s so much that can be done with calm, healing energy,” Sutherland said. However, she noted that energy work—or treatment of any kind—with animals, is a big responsibility.
“Animals can’t speak for themselves. They can’t tell you what’s going on, and you are making a choice for them. It is a big vulnerability for them.”
Sutherland stressed the importance of what she called the “conscious intention of healing energy without expectations.”
“Life unfolds the way it’s supposed to,” she said. “It’s the natural cycle of life—to bring healing energy without expectation, and I think it can offer us a lot of peace and acceptance.”
Ely reiterated the importance of momentary awareness.
“Any animal you see, and for sure any animal with which you come in contact is connected with you on an energetic level,” she said. “I do my best to learn from them. For that, I need to be to be present with them, and notice if I can pick up what the lesson today is.”
Reiki for animals
In Minnesota, Animal Intuition (animal-intuition.com) in Eden Prairie offers, among other natural and holistic animal based services, Reiki for animals. The Animal Intuition website says “(Reiki) can never cause harm and works for the highest good for yourself and others.” This form of healing “does not conflict with any other form of healing, whether traditional or alternative.”
The site also makes it clear that Reiki is not a replacement for proper medical care, but it “supports the body’s ability to heal.”
For additional information on Reiki for animals, visit animalreikisource.com.
Kevin Krein is a writer living in Northfield. He’s operated the award-winning music blog Anhedonic Headphones since 2013, and hosts a corresponding podcast available in iTunes and Google Play. His writing has also appeared in River Valley Woman and on The Next Ten Words. He is a “cool rabbit dad” at heart, but is now a “foster failure;” he and his wife live with a special needs cat named Ted. Follow Kevin (and Ted) on ‘the socials’—@KevEFly (Twitter) and @kev_e_fly (Instagram.)