BY TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER
Toni Rukse knew she faced a challenge when she agreed to adopt her brother’s dog eight months ago.
Enzo, a 120-pound cane corso, suffered from separation anxiety and was extremely fearful of loud sounds, such as thunder and fireworks.
“When we first got him, he had these issues with anxiety and fearfulness,” said Rukse, 42, of West Scranton. “I thought, how am I going to be able to leave the house? He barks and cries. He’s too big to crate and I can’t have him destroying the house.”
She and her husband, Paul, 42, were considering medicating Enzo when Patricia Sperling, DVM, owner of the Dr. PAWS veterinary clinic in Scranton, suggested a unique alternative: reiki, a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation.
Kathy Nemetz, a receptionist in Sperling’s office, is a master reiki practitioner. The therapy ordinarily is practiced on humans. About three years ago, she began trying the techniques on animals.
The therapy is based on the belief that a therapist channels an unseen life force energy into a patient by laying hands over various parts of the body, according to the International Center for Reiki Training. That releases negative energy and creates deep relaxation, which spurs the body’s natural healing process.
The Rukses were skeptical at first. As with most alternative therapies, it’s difficult to prove reiki’s benefits through scientific means.
They went from skeptics to believers after just two sessions.
“In a matter of a couple weeks, he was a completely different dog,” Toni Rukse said. “Nothing seems to faze him. He goes to doggie day care and interacts with other dogs. I’m thrilled.”
Nicole Christian, 44, of Covington Twp., turned to Nemetz after her cat, Griffin, suddenly started urinating on various walls in her home to mark his territory.
Christian suspected the 6-year-old domestic shorthair developed anxiety after she brought a number of other male cats into her home. After several sessions with Nemetz, the behavior stopped.
“It was a miracle,” Christian said. “She totally changed him.”
Nemetz, 54, of Montdale, said she has treated about 32 cats and dogs and two horses since 2017. The sessions last 45 minutes to an hour and cost $50. She is one of at least two Reiki practitioners who treat pets. Danielle Urso of Puppy Power Salon & Services in Dunmore also is a Reiki master who works with pets.
Nemetz works out of Sperling’s office, but also makes house calls. She primarily focuses on treating animals with stress-related behavior or health issues.
“They can’t speak to us to tell you, ‘I’m stressed,’” Nemetz said. “I felt this was the perfect avenue. The doctor is here to help with other things.”
In Enzo’s case, he had difficulty adjusting to Rukse’s home after her brother moved and had to give him up. He had been an only “child” and now had to deal with two fur siblings, Shih Tzus Maggie and Molly.
“He was not familiar with other dogs,” Toni Rukse said. “It was a lot of change in his young life, which brought out nervousness.”
He was a bit jumpy at his first reiki session, but by the second session, he and Nemetz were best buddies.
“He was completely calm after Kathy left him,” Paul Rukse said. “I had to see it to believe it.”
Today all that nervous energy is gone. And he’s no longer afraid of fireworks or thunder, the couple said.
Sperling said she’s pleased to offer the alternative in addition to more traditional veterinary care. She can attest to the success Nemetz has had in treating behavioral issues.
“I know it sounds like a lot of hocus-pocus, but I’ve seen it work too many times to discount it,” Sperling said.
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