As a Reiki Practitioner, I rarely work with young, healthy animals. Most of my feline and canine clients suffer from degenerative diseases such as arthritis, kidney disease, or diabetes. Some are terminally ill. Reiki can help bring healing and balance to these animals by reducing stress, providing pain relief, alleviating side effects of conventional treatments, and strengthening the immune system.

Reiki can be especially beneficial for animals suffering from a terminal illness. I even offer joint treatments for pet and guardian. Often, animals will not allow themselves to transition because they intuitively feel that their person is not ready to let them go. Joint Reiki treatments for the pet and his or her person can help both through this difficult time by enhancing the bond and allowing a gentle transition.

Unfortunately, working with older animals and hospice patients also makes it inevitable that eventually, I’m going to lose these clients. The experience of losing an animal client is unique. It’s different from losing my own cats, but it hurts nevertheless.

A year ago, I lost a very special canine client. I wrote this article last year, and even though I don’t usually write about dogs here, I’m going to share it with you today, in memory of Oliver, and all the others I’ve lost along the way.

In memory of Oliver 

When I sat down at my desk this morning to get organized for the day ahead, the item on today’s agenda that I was looking forward to the most was my weekly Reiki session with Oliver, a sweet 12-year-old yellow Lab.  A couple of hours later, his guardian called.  Oliver had been declining rapidly over the weekend, and crashed this morning.  By the time she got him to the vet’s, there was nothing left to do but euthanize him.

Just last week, Oliver had come rushing to the door (at least as much as a 12-year-old lab with severe arthritis and multiple other health issues can still rush), greeting me with joyful tail wags and rolling over for his ritual pre-Reiki belly rub.   We had a lovely session, and I left, already looking forward to this week’s session, never thinking I wouldn’t see him again.

Those of us who work with animals know that death is part of the deal.  When I worked in veterinary practices, on really bad days, it sometimes came multiple times a day.  When I started my Reiki practice five years ago, I was well aware that losing clients would be part of the experience, especially since the majority of my pet clients are older pets with health issues.

One of the most frequently asked questions, when I tell someone that I work with animals, is always, “I don’t know how you can handle it when they die.”  Losing a pet client is a unique experience.   It’s different from losing one of my own pets, and it also varies from what I experienced when I worked in veterinary practices.

Since I work one-on-one with my clients, often over a long period of time (I’d been seeing Oliver once a week for the past ten months), a bond forms very quickly.  Of course it’s not the same bond I have with my own pets, but it’s a strong attachment nevertheless.  I get to know these animals, and their owners, and I grow to love them.  I celebrate when they feel better, and I worry when they get worse.  A Reiki session is a pretty personal experience, and in the process of working with these pets in their homes, in such an intimate setting, I don’t just bond with the pet, I also get to know and like the pet’s guardian.  I see some of my clients more frequently than I see some of my friends.   When the pet dies, it’s not just the connection with the pet that’s severed for me; the connection with the client also ends, or, at the very least, changes.

When I worked in veterinary clinics, losing a client’s pet was more of a shared experience.  There were other staff members who participated in the pet’s care.  We could talk about what happened after news of a pet’s death or after euthanasia.  We could share stories about the pet.  It didn’t make handling death any easier, but it helped.  In my Reiki practice, losing a pet client is a lonely experience:  with the exception of the owner and the owner’s family, and me, the loss doesn’t affect anyone else.

So how do I handle it?  I accept that it’s part of this work I’ve chosen to do.  I try to support the pet’s owner in their grief, and I cry a few tears myself.  I’m comforted by the knowledge that even though I wasn’t able to delay or prevent death, my Reiki sessions contributed to better health and quality of life for the pet.

And I tuck the memory of Oliver, and all the others, into a special corner of my heart.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

For more information aboutr Reiki for pets, please visit Healing Hands.

14 Comments on A Pet’s Loss Once Removed Is a Loss No Less

  1. Hi Ingrid,

    This piece hits close to home. Why cannot dogs and cats live as long as humans?????

    I always think of the book “a dog’s purpose” and that gives me some solace.

    • I know, Paddy – it’s never long enough, but in the end, I think the love we share with our pets while they’re with us outweighs the pain of losing them.

  2. Ingrid this was so beautiful! I am sure the owners and the animals benefit from your calming touch…I know you have to make their transition from this world so much easier. It is never easy for an owner but I am sure they take comfort in the fact that someone with a heart of gold and hands that offer the loving touch of a feather has cared for them as well as their beloved pet.

  3. Ingrid, what a beautiful post. I’m sure that the paw prints of all the critters who have shared your journey are safely tucked in your heart, along with all those special memories.

  4. Ingrid, Oliver’s story is beautiful, and that intimate physical touch makes the bond even deeper. I can commiserate in that most of my animal portrait customers, if they are not deceased when we start, eventually pass away and their people let me know about it. After spending time with them in that intimate space in my mind they have become a part of my life in another way, as all the things I create are.

    • Thanks, Bernadette. I had never thought about you as an artist connecting with your subjects on such an intimate level, but of course you do – otherwise, you couldn’t create your deeply personal paintings.

      • I’ve got 3 feline kittens in the house. I’ve got infected with a measles and 2 of them died. How is that possible? Only one was left for a few months then after she (Mushu) got coughs and colds. She’ll sneeze most of the time then i notice that she’s like me having allergic rhinitis and sinusitis which i suffered for the past 15years of my life. I also noticed that everytime we’ll go to bed at night and sleep she’s always there beside me. And just yesterday, we couldn’t find her and my mother said that she must have been dead or died. Our last encounter of her was yesterday early morning. It was so sudden coz my sisters said and including my mother said that it was her goodbye already coz she’s cuddling and asking for attention from them then when i woke up, she’s not there anymore. Is she dead? Even until now, we couldn’t find her =(

        • I’m so sorry for your loss, Carolyn. I couldn’t even begin to speculate on what might have happened. Perhaps your veterinarian could help you understand what might have made your cats sick.

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