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Reiki versus dogs just being dogs

Let me start right here by repeating yet again my oft-repeated assessment of reiki. Reiki is clearly nothing more than faith healing that substitutes Eastern mysticism for Christianity. Think of it this way. In faith healing, the faith healer claims to channel the healing power of God into the person being healed. In reiki, the reiki master claims to be able to channel “life energy” from what they refer to as the “universal source.” Big difference, right?

Wrong. It’s the same thing.

Let me also point out that, as much as I detest quackery, I’m particularly not a big fan of subjecting innocent animals to quackery. That’s why I’ve been particularly critical of subjecting animals to acupuncture, the way Cesar Milan does sometimes on his show The Dog Whisperer. I also haven’t been much of a fan of reiki masters subjecting animals to reiki. As large animal veterinarian David Ramey puts it, the use of such therapies as acupuncture is a triumph of style over substance. The only good thing I can say about subjecting animals to reiki is that at least it doesn’t involve sticking needles into the poor creatures. The other thing I can say is that frequently it involves some hilarity on the part of reiki masters, particularly “reiki animal shamans.” I found yet another example of this not too long ago at the Guide to Holistic Healing in the form of an article by someone named Phylameana lila Desy, who describes herself thusly:

Phylameana is certified in Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki and the Science of Intuition from the Holos Institutes of Health. She is an energy medicine practitioner, clairvoyant, intuitive counselor, flower essence consultant, and owner of Spiral Visions. Her lifework includes writing, web-publishing, and healing work. Author of The Everything Guide to Reiki, (January 2012). Phylameana’s writing resume includes contributed content published in a variety of healing texts including: The Meditation Sourcebook, Living Well with Autoimmune Disease, and Sacred Stones. Her Chakracises were referenced in an article published in Body and Soul Magazine (March 2006).

As you can see, Phylameana is not exactly what you would call a skeptical person. She embraces all manner of non-science-based woo, as befits a reiki master. This embrace produces hilarious results in an article by her, What if My Dog Prefers Petting Over Reiki?, in which she solicits a response to this very question from Rose De Dan. We’ve met Rose before when she counseled another reiki practitioner who tried to heal a dog who had been hit by a car and a cat with a fatal viral infection. Unsurprisingly, neither worked. The best Rose could answer was to blithely tell this hapless reiki master that “the practitioner does not always get what they want, but the recipient always gets what they need.” Mick Jagger analogies aside, Rose took the hilarity one step further by suggesting that the reiki master “consider sending Reiki back in time for yourself, to the point of origin of your need to make a difference or ‘heal'” and “send Reiki back in time to the situation, the occasion of the passing of each animal, for the highest good of all, thereby opening possibilities for them.”

As I put it at the time, where’s The Doctor when you need him?

But back to the problem at hand. Why would a dog prefer petting to reiki? Heck, why would a dog prefer treats to reiki? Any dog owner would know the answer to that: Dogs love food, and most dogs are pretty food-driven. Most of them also love to be petted. As for reiki itself, in case you don’t know what reiki actually involves, I’ll tell you. Basically, in order to channel the “life energy” from the “universial source” reiki masters sometimes do do an elaborate series of hand gestures. Sometimes they simply hold their hands over the person who is to receive their “healing,” much as practitioners of “therapeutic touch” do, which is not surprising given that, if anything, therapeutic touch resembles various “energy healing” modalities like—you guessed it—reiki. Oh, you’ll sometimes see arguments over whether touching is permitted or whether the woo works if there’s actual skin-to-skin contact, but in the end it’s all basically the same thing: Magic healing based on wishful thinking.

So let’s get to the question:

Is there a right/wrong way, or suggestions how to do Reiki on my dogs? I have been attuned in Reiki 1 (a few years ago) & Reiki 2 (in March). It occurred to me I hadn’t done Reiki with my 2 dogs so I tried to do it. They don’t want me to just hold my hands over them or in one spot as they want to be petted by my hands (of course — they are dogs). So while stroking my dog, I made the master symbol just intended for the higher good; one itches a lot so I’m going to see if Reiki can help with that. But, my hands have to keep moving or he gets annoyed/confused. Any right or wrong way about this (in terms of keeping the movement versus stationary)? Or would it be more effective to do a distance healing?

I’m going to surprise you by saying that “distance healing” would be at least as effective as doing standard reiki. Well, maybe it’s not such a surprise. The reason that both are equally effective is that neither are effective. It is, however, rather amusing, this reiki woo-meister’s dilemma. In a way, dogs are smarter than humans in that they don’t fool themselves into believing that hand motions are anything more than hand motions. They’d much prefer to be petted than to have some silly human making pointless hand symbols over them. I know what my dog would probably do if I were to try to make these hand symbols over him in order to “heal” him. He’d probably think I was playing with him and get very excited. My dog and I sometimes wrestle, and there are few things my dog likes better; he even likes this better than chasing a ball. Of course, big doofus that my dog is, wrestling often results in accidental scratches—to me on my hands and arms. The same thing used to happen with the last dog I had who liked to play this way back when I was a teenager. Alternatively, he might become confused or annoyed (like the hapless reiki master’s dog in the letter) and try to escape, particularly if he’s not in the mood to play or if there’s a distracting squirrel or bird in the yard.

So what is Rose’s advice? This:

I would suggest asking your dog to help you practice your new skills. Approach the session by stating (to yourself), “I ask that this Reiki be offered for your highest healing good, and that if you do not wish to receive it, I respect your desire.” This enlists his support, shifts focus from your need to his, and releases your focus on “fixing” the issue.

Next I would tell him the steps that you intend to take. Imagine yourself going through the steps in your mind, with your hands being still–this will give your dog information about what to expect and how he could cooperate.

Yeah, I’m sure that’ll work, just as it’ll work if you ask your dog “permission” to do anything. Of course, this whole “asking permission” thing is the perfect out if the animal doesn’t get better. Obviously, if the dog (or whatever animal) stays the same, he must not have wanted to be healed! Of course, humans frequently perceive their dogs’ behavior in terms of their own wishful thinking rather than on the more—shall we say?—basic motivations that drive dogs, in essence anthropomorphizing their dog’s behavior and perceived motivations. Reiki is perfect for driving this misinterpretation. You can bet that virtually anything the dog does will be perceived as “giving permission.” Well, anything perhaps, except dying, as the dog unfortunately did in my previous deconstruction of this nonsense.

Rose then suggests:

It sounds like you were trained to do Reiki hand positions above the body rather than making contact as I do. If that is so I would suggest placing your hands directly on your dog since he will understand that better. However, it is not necessary to keep both hands still during a session for it to be effective. One hand can stay in the intended hand position while the other is involved with the expected petting.

In other words, Rose is advising this hapless reiki master simply to pet her dog with one hand. Of course the dog will like it! Dogs love to be petted. Sure, the dog would probably prefer to be petted with both hands, but dogs are adaptable. They’ll take what they can get from their owners. Looking at the hand positions described, I’m even more convinced that, were I to try this with my dog, he’d think it was time to wrestle, particularly because several of the hand gestures shown involve covering the face.

Rose then concludes with advice regarding the dog’s itchy skin, suggesting both reiki, dietary modifications, and “detoxification” (of course!) in order to alleviate the dog’s symptoms.

I must admit that I find this particular article a lot less disturbing than the last foray into animal reiki by Rose that I discussed, not because reiki is any less pure quackery, but because at least in this case the animal getting the reiki is not dying, as the dog hit by a car was. At least in this case, although reiki isn’t doing the dog any good, at least it’s not causing harm by delaying definitive treatment—or at least palliation—of painful injuries. On one level, the owner’s expressed frustration that her dog is in essence just being a dog is highly amusing, but at least the dog isn’t suffering. The danger is that, should her dog develop a real health issue that requires real medical treatment, she might be slow to seek real medical treatment because she wants to try magical faith healing first.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

597 replies on “Reiki versus dogs just being dogs”

My cat was dying of renal failure. Science-based veterinary medicine saved her (although the vet always claims “it’s a miracle”, whenever she sees our kitty). Of course, it was rather more painful than reiki or homeopathy (all those big pills, drips and blood tests) but it worked and after 1,5 year my cat is very much alive and in good condition.

Well, the vets say that dying from renal failure is virtually painless, so if we chose reiki, our cat wouldn’t suffer that much – but I very much prefer to have her around, even if she wakes me up at 5.30 because she wants to be fed.

Reiki is just another way to separate gullible, science averse fools from their money. Albeit in a very spiritually satisfying way.

I can’t figure out if I prefer the Reiki response or the Christian faith healing response when you aren’t healed. I would be confused to be told I obviously don’t want to be healed and end up quiet and analyzing my personal motives for days (gee, thanks mom), but it’s better than the Christian faith healer who kept insisting they were called to heal me, failed, and proclaimed me possessed. 😐

Poor dogs! If they’re sick, take them to the vet. If it’s a skin thing and it is all over their body, analyze recent changes, consider changing pet foods (my dog started losing clumps of hair when I got Science Diet on sale and assumed it would be much better for her and tried the switch – she was allergic to it; back to Beneful and she’s great) first if you don’t want to go to the vet and have them suggest it. However, skin irritation is miserable…

~shakes head~

I suspect Reiki practitioners and the like enjoy the “I have a mystical skill” idea. The self-delusion of their increased awareness and importance just sucks them further and further from rational thought.

Hell, this wouldn’t even work on my fish. As soon as my hand goes in the tank (typically for cleaning or to replant the plants those bastards keep uprooting) they immediately start trying to eat it.

I wonder if reiki works through glass?

Reiki for pets? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

At least one can attempt to persuade a human that this crazy person is trying to heal him, which may allow for a placebo effect. I would expect no placebo effect in animals (are there any vets here to weigh in on this question?). An animal’s thought process is likely to be along the lines of, “What is this crazy person doing?” And anybody who doesn’t understand why a dog or a cat would prefer petting to reiki should not be a pet owner.

Eric Lund,

There have been a number of animal studies done for acupuncture and homeopathy which are held up by the CAM community as evidence they work because, after all, an animal wouldn’t have a placebo effect. Presumably Reiki would follow the same pattern. I see no reason animals would not be subject to placebo effects, and certainly the observer would. If you act like your pet is feeling better, sometimes it acts like it’s feeling better, which makes you think it’s working.


I see no reason animals would not be subject to placebo effects, and certainly the observer would.

This gets back to what Orac said about anthropomorphizing our pets. We tend to see in their behavior what we want to see. Added to that is how our behavior affects them and you have the perfect recipe for self-delusion. I recall one couple’s account of how one of them treated their dog with great care and concern, to which the dog responded with displays of submission and “down” behaviors (tail down, quiet, limping). The other member of the couple treated the dog as if it were doing fine, and the dog responded with tail wagging, no limp, etc.

Approach the session by stating (to yourself),

Yes, don’t speak out loud. You wouldn’t want people seeing you talking to your dog and thinking you are crazy.

(full disclosure: I talk to my cats and dog whenever I have the occasion. On the other hand, I don’t pretend to heal them with the Palpatine touch)

What if My Dog Prefers Petting Over Reiki?

I agree with you Orac: dogs can be smarter than humans.

Anyone who subjects a sick or injured animal to woo instead of science-based veterinary care should be bitten.

I’ll volunteer to do the biting, myself.

@ Eric Lund

Placebo in animals? Attention, pet peeve of mine (sorry, lame pun)

There were a few articles on this topic on Science-based medicine website, like this one. Todd was referring to a comment appearing under one of these articles.

My own (amateurish) opinion is simply that for our pets, we are the Provider. God-like for dogs, butler-like for cats, but that’s beside the point.
For our pets, there is a correlation between our presence and the magical appearance of food and water. There is also a correlation between our hands and a feeling of well-being over their skin. Maybe it’s just us training them to respond to our presence, but still: there are expectations from our pets, and we are feeding these expectations whenever we are, well, feeding them.
But suddenly, when they are ill, they become unaware of our presence and are to stupid (or not stupid enough) to expect us to relieve their pain, the same way we relieve their hunger?
It’s not a very plausible hypothesis. Especially in the light that we are keeping our pets in a state of infancy, making ourself something akin to surrogate parents. We are an authority figure, for them. A perfect setting for placebo.
Not to mention that, as Todd and Mephistopheles pointed out, the placebo effect could be in the eye of the beholder (the owner).
Note that our pets don’t have to understand what we are doing to heal them. They just need to realize that we are doing something to them.

I like to point out to clever Hans. The story is seen as an hoax – a horse supposedly able to do calculus – but a lot of people missed the main point: the horse was able to pretend to do calculus by body-reading the people watching him. I have a hard time accepting that a horse can do that, but is unable to feel that we are fussing over his well-being.

Another commenter wrote a good point:
Animals are good at hiding pain, if needs to be. So, if Fluffy is stuck with plenty of needles whenever it shows suffering, it quickly learns not to show pain.

Meh, is there a review button somewhere on this site? My links seem broken.
First was “is there placebo in animals” on Science-based medicine.
Second was the Wikipedia article on Clever Hans.

I have friends who has been sucked in my a pet psychic. Why, this woman is so good that she can read and cure over the phone!

Admittedly, my friends did have ongoing issues with, what sounds like, a bad vet. Of course, the psychic read that the dog needed better food to help with allergies.

It’s even more hilarious if you picture the reiki process in your mind’s eye.

I have thought up an adaption for cats- who may not be as obliging as dogs with the hand jive. I have a large ,athletic cat who-like most cats- really likes to sit in boxes. Yesterday someone brought me a long cardboard box expressly for this purpose which he sits in- happy as a clam- looking for all the world like cat MRI**.

The reiki master would gesticulate over the box which would now be called the reiki healing chambre and probably should be painted silver.

OT- but is ironic nonsense from MIke Adams *ever* really OT @ RI, I ask you?

MIkey- for reasons immaterial to my point- investigates the PhD of some fellow with a Dutch name- seems it is a phoney! from a degree mill! and purchased! The horror!

Now Mike has never revealed his own degrees or anything at all about his own education and he has called himself a nutritionist. Nor has he rankled about Gary Null’s ersatz degree ( quackwatch, wikipedia, or any of the other woo-meisters whose idiocy he broadcasts from his platform.I guess he doens’t have an axe to grind against them as he has against the guy in question.

** cat scan

In a way, dogs are smarter than humans in that they don’t fool themselves into believing that hand motions are anything more than hand motions.

TV Tropes entry: “Too Dumb to Fool

At our level of technology, we’re used to the idea of things that aren’t detectable to our built-in senses. So magical vitalist life energy has some plausibility for people who don’t understand the science behind the invisible. Your typical dog doesn’t understand the idea of wifi signals, magnetic fields, and such, so he wouldn’t understand the vitalist concepts behind reiki.

As for placebo effect, I think some animals could experience it if they make the connection between their health and vet visits, even if it’s by post-hoc reasoning: “I get sick and my worried human takes me to a man in white who pokes a needle in me. My human gets less worried, and I recover. That’s how it usually happens, therefore, having a man in white poke me makes me feel better.”

They could probably do the same post-hoc fallacies humans do for self-limiting conditions. Sick -> (Ineffective) Treatment -> Better in a few days. Of course, as has been said, the human interpretation of the pet’s reaction adds another layer of self-deception, so there’s still plenty of reason to use placebo controls for veterinary medicine.

What if My Dog Prefers Petting Over Reiki?

Then you have a very sensible dog and it deserves a run in the dog park.

I think someone mentioned in the comments to Orac’s older post on this subject that Caesar Milan’s training techniques, aside from the acupuncture, aren’t necessarily a good idea for dogs, either. Does anyone have a link to a decent S-B discussion of this? I know a fair number of dog owners who dig his advice, and I’d certainly spread around any rational critique.

@Bronze Dog

Magical thinking was observed, many times, in animals as dumb as pigeons even decades ago. It is an observable fact that pets are susceptible to logical fallacies. Having worked with lab animals in the past (psych experiments, not decapitation and stuff), I can assure you that double blinding is a must. Even lab rats (which are much dumber than their wild brethren) are capable of fooling people. And people are still as great as ever at fooling themselves.

@Denice Walter

probably should be painted silver

No, no, no. Wrapped in tinfoil. High end ones would, of course, be copper-plated.

I don’t think Reiki would have been nearly as much help as the vet was with my cat’s two ingrown claws yesterday. She certainly didn’t want anyone laying their hands upon her afflicted toes. Then again, her general dislike of anyone _ever_ touching her feet is the main reason why her claws can grow out like that in the first place. Anybody know of any therapeutic touch-like methods for claw-clipping?

Come to think of it, my hands weren’t anywhere near her when her claws _did_ get clipped yesterday, so I guess that could be considered a hands-free method. Bite- and scratch-free, too.

I’m reminded of Tellingon Ttouch, which is a “therapeutic touch” method developed for animals. Now, anyone who has animals knows that steady, firm slow touch is soothing for them. It’s a nice, comfy massage. But, of course, Ttouch is MORE than that. “[T]he intent of the TTouch is to activate the function of the cells and awaken cellular intelligence.” Because a method to sooth your dog or cat is never enough. They have to pile woo on top of it.

There was once a fellow who occasionally drank in my local who claimed to be a ‘Reiki Master’ (in my limited experience everyone who has a reiki session goes on to become a ‘master’).

He made the mistake of trying it on me. He told me I had chronic neck problems, I told him I don’t (I have a small surgical scar at the top of my neck from a lipoma removal).

He waved his hands in my general direction and asked if I felt an improvement and I of course, said no.

“You will”, he replied.

At that point I asked if he was a practising ‘psychic’ and he looked amazed and asked how I knew that.

I then explained to everyone at our table how he’d just turned a complete miss into a hit and said it’s a classic talking to the dead trick.

I then asked him how his ‘healing gift’ works and he trotted out the usual energy channelling crap.

To my shame I ripped his reasoning apart rather publicly (though i wouldn’t have if he hadn’t given a public demonstration).

The reason i mention this is that the reiki ‘healers’ I’ve met (admittedly not many) all claim to have psychic abilities and invariably use the same techniques of cold calling.

Only rather than I’m getting an ‘M’ they ask the ‘patient’ if they’re feeling anything. If the ‘patient’ says yes the ‘healer’ has a rough idea of the location because he’s waving his hands over the area.

The chap left the pub and never returned so apologies to the landlord. It was me who lost you a regular customer.

Well, the vets say that dying from renal failure is virtually painless, so if we chose reiki, our cat wouldn’t suffer that much

That strikes me as an odd thing for a vet to say. CRF is eminently manageable, and I did it with my eldest for many years, but toward the end, there’s definitely suffering–there’s a reason cats learn to like sub-Q fluids pretty quickly. (And if your vet doesn’t routinely check CRF patients for hypertension, ask for it.)

Richard Smith: Some people these days are using something like a Dremel tool (you can use a Dremel tool, too, if you have a fine-grind head for it and it goes down to low enough RPMs) to grind down cats’ claws, which is apparently less traumatising than clipping, since a lot of cats don’t like the pinching sensation. Something to think about, perhaps?

@ Bronze Dog

At our level of technology, we’re used to the idea of things that aren’t detectable to our built-in senses.

True, but I would like to point out that our ancestors, all the way back to the cavemen, did have religious beliefs, and religion is basically having the idea of undetectable stuff happening (whether it’s true or not is another debate, please don’t make me the cause for derail). Obviously, advanced technology in not necessary to believe in fairy dust: the idea has been around for ages.

@ Richard Smith

Anybody know of any therapeutic touch-like methods for claw-clipping?

Terry Pratchett proposed a method to fed a cat a pill in “The Unalduterated Cat”. You can try to adapt it for claw-clipping However, his proposed method require to possess at least three hands: one to hold the cat in a towel, one to hold the cat’s mouth open, and one to insert the pill into the cat’s mouth.
Terry Pratchett admits himself it’s not a very effective method. I never said I would give good advice 🙂

More seriously, if your cat was younger, and didn’t already had ingrown nails, I would propose to try offering her a scratching toy. In years past, my family regularly purchased these cheap multi-layered cardboard boxes, with the layers forming a grid to be scratched, with catnip seed embedded at the bottom, to give the cat an incentive to claw (and nibble) its way through the cardboard. it gives the cat something to use its claws on.
However, this toy has two negative sides: a frenzied cat will chew its way through the cardboard and back very quickly, so the toy would only last a few days; and more annoyingly, you are training your cat to sharpen its claws, so be in lookout for collateral damage on the furniture.
Try googling for cat scratching box, although the first hits are going to be for expensive models.
Maybe in your pet shop? (although the pet shops in my area are not much cat-friendly – plenty of things for your clownfish or iguana, but nothing much for cats – don’t know if cats are going out of fashion)
Um, since you cat already has ingrown nails, my advice is not very helpful. Maybe have her claws clipped by a vet, wait a bit for the claws to regrow a bit, and then try to educate her on a scratching box?

@Narad – the vet actually said that renal failure is virtually painless compared to renal cancer, so we should try to treat our cat, even if she’s almost dying because that wouldn’t cause additional suffering to her.
Anyway, I’ve been giving my cat subQ fluids for the last year and a half and while she does not really like it, she stopped trying to run away and that’s a huge improvement.
I don’t go to the vet very often, we do all the drips on our own, at home. The problem is, my cat is very aggressive towards everyone except me and my husband and she has to be sedated for all blood tests and such. When she was dying, our vet tried to do a renal USG without sedation – and this poor, dying kitty, lying like a rag on the table, bit the vet in the finger, straight into the joint. The vet bandaged the wound, said “I see a very strong will to live, we will try to treat her”, taught us how to do the drips… and that’s how we’ve been for the last year and a half. The cat is on a special diet, she gets her pills every morning and fluids every 5 days.

Nat Geo, please add a pre-submitting view. It’s urgent.
If only so I can see the wall of text I’m about to submit and have a chance to cut down on my profligacy.

Belay part of my last!

Rather than Cold calling it should of course, read Cold Reading.

But you all knew that.

When she was dying, our vet tried to do a renal USG without sedation – and this poor, dying kitty, lying like a rag on the table, bit the vet in the finger, straight into the joint.

Heh. Mine actually required an ultrasound at one point, for which I to travel some distance to a specialty clinic where they didn’t know him. (My own vets knew it was going to take at least three people to do anything with him.) So I’m sitting in this clinic, which was way nicer than my own university medical center, and somebody comes out and says they’re going to take him in to shave his belly. Somehow, this hadn’t occurred to me in advance, and all I could muster was, “I don’t think that’s going to be straightforward.” Oh, no, we do it all the time, no problem.

Ten minutes later, one of the actual partners comes out looking visibly shaken and requests permission to sedate the cat. Sure thing, doc. That cat was as tough as nails–even after he lost his sight to a retinal detachment, he would find ways to sneak out into the park, catch giant insects, and bring them back up to the apartment. It’s part of the reason I persisted until fluids were no longer helping.

“non-science-based woo” implies the existence of another kind.

Eric Lund and Heliantus,
I see the Placebo by Proxy effect on animal owners every day. It has become standard of care to call the chiropractor instead of the veterinarian, and no one wants to dismiss “alternative” stuff. Unfortunately, especially when it comes to behavioral matters, indeed the “alternative” was far superior (and much closer to science) than some of the traditional stuff, tradition mired in very old attitudes towards the “dumber than us” animals. So just because in the recent past and even today, myself and others found practical and factual info in “alternative” training systems means that many extrapolate from that to embracing the woo.

I don’t see the tide turning anytime soon. Woo is going to grow and grow and people are going to spend more money on it.

I took my dog to a regular PT who also does “energy work” on animals. He did some very gentle manipulation of his spine and back legs, and then closed his eyes holding his hands over several locations on the dog’s back and legs. We went to see him 3 times. Before we saw this guy, the dog couldn’t walk up or down stairs, could barely get up off the floor and drag himself around the block for a walk, didn’t have enough stability to lift his leg to pee. Now he’s running downstairs, trotting easily through his walks, pissing on fire hydrants just fine. The dog is old and his progress will not last forwever, but whatever this guy did made a HUGE difference. . The vet had nothing to offer said it’s just a function of genetic hip issues and old age. Call it quackery, hooey, woo, whatever you want. I’m just happy my dog is still enjoying his life.

The reiki master would gesticulate over the box which would now be called the reiki healing chambre and probably should be painted silver.

In MY DAY we called them “Orgone Accumulators”. Kids today…

Just when I thought I was over re-homing my dog…maybe Reiki would have helped? There was me thinking I’d tried just about everything

@ herr doktor bimler ( and -btw- Todd W.)

Oh no, no, no! I’m over 50 and know perfectly well about Reich ( altho’ lord almighty, I wish I didn’t) but…
I think that a cardboard box painted shiny silver with someone waving their hands over it EXACTLY characterises what woo really is.

@ Dreamer

Case in point 15 minutes after you posted…

@ joyrider

I’m glad for you dog. I really am.
But I want to know if it’s true. And not by hearsay.
Because if it really works, I want it too.
And if it doesn’t work, I don’t want to spent my money on it, including my hard-earner tax money. And I want my health insurance to stop peddle it and focus on real treatments.

If you can convince your PT to participate in a double-blind study – all the dogs are examined by a third party vet before and after, half the dogs go to your PT, the other half to a mime artist who doesn’t know sh*t about Reiki.
Plus a specialist in social studies to collect data on the dogs’ (and the owners’) lifestyle to rule out a few confounders, like diet, exercise, dog’s breed…
It will be a self-selecting sample group, which is not the best, but that would be a start.

I think that a cardboard box painted shiny silver with someone waving their hands over it EXACTLY characterises what woo really is.

And the cat inside is simultaneously healed AND not healed until you open the box and collapse the wave-function.

Yet another anecdote….

I have an 18 year old cat with pretty severe arthritis, but is otherwise fine per her latest blood tests. It’s frustrating for both me and the vet because there apparently aren’t any long-term safe treatments for arthritis in cats – they can’t tolerate the same medications other animals (including people) can, and an ethical vet won’t prescribe “nuclear options” for pain unless it’s either short-term acute or an end-of-life situation. The vet could only suggest glucosamine-chondroitin (Cosequin for Cats), with the caveat that there was some evidence it might help, but in any case won’t hurt. So we dutifully sprinkled it on her food for a couple years. Meh. Just ran out of the stuff and despite knowing with my forebrain it almost certainly isn’t going to help, my hindbrain is still tempted to get some more.

Of course, the cat seems to be adapting to her progressive disability a lot better than I am. For one, she learned to start vocalizing her demands quite musically after 15 years of being almost silent. Manipulative little git….

There was a blog called SkeptVet that addressed lots of woo (including a recent study showing that glucosamine-chondroitin doesn’t really work in animals, same as it doesn’t really work in people), but unfortunately the domain’s reverted to an ad site. 🙁

@Heliantus: Point taken about wanting scientific proof. If my PT did a double-blind study, however, it might only show that HE can get results using this method, not necessarily that any random, “trained” person can. He seems to have a gift for it. Although he has a thriving regular “people” practice he has an affinity for animals and started out doing it for some friends’ pets. Even he was a bit skeptical at first, but people kept telling him it was making a difference in their pets, so he now has one treatment area for people, and a seperate room just for animals. Plus, he travels out to treat horses. Because the demand is growing (based on referrals) and he’s the only one around who can do what he does, he’s shifting his practice more and more to working this way with animals. It’s clearly not about the money for him, because his PT rates on people are double that of animals.
I’m definitely on the skeptical side, but when my friend told me he was convinced this guy added two years to the life of his dog, and when the vets don’t have anything to offer, then it was a no-brainer for me to give it a shot. Maybe that makes me a sucker, but I say it’s the best $180 I ever spent.

I don’t know why they call this “Respectful Insolence,” of the two articles I’ve read under this heading, neither has been respectful.

It must be a pretty sad life when you have NO WONDERMENT for anything!! Your articles are condescending BS. You write about things which you have no REAL knowledge. Just because things like Reiki and Acupuncture aren’t fully based in “empirical science” does not mean that they are not amazing healing arts!!

It is my wish for you to get a REAL life, one in which you can be fulfilled for building something up, something positive!! Not trying to tear everything down for which you cannot find understanding within yourself.

There was a blog called SkeptVet that addressed lots of woo (including a recent study showing that glucosamine-chondroitin doesn’t really work in animals, same as it doesn’t really work in people), but unfortunately the domain’s reverted to an ad site.

You can search for Brennen McKenzie’s articles over at SBM.

Gosh, Rebeecca Petrovic, just what in particular do you object to? Do you have actual evidence that Reiki and Acupuncture work any better than a placebo?

Rebecca: I realize that you lose money if your victims start asking awkward questions, like “Is there any evidence that you’re not a crook?” but that’s no reason for you to whine here.

Oh, G-d, not Laura Petrovic, B.S., A.O.S., LMT. Time to fold up shop.

@Narad: Many thanks for pointing out that SkeptVet is Brennen McKenzie. So much for my Google skills.

@Rebecca Petrovic – the fundamental flaw in your argument is that it’s based on faith. Faith is emotional, and emotions are notoriously individual and difficult to quantify. You can’t demand that I have faith in Reiki any more than you can demand that I fall madly in love with some random guy in a parking lot.

With apologies to the memory of Winston Churchill: Science is the worst way of knowing the truth, except for all the other ones. 🙂

I have a cat I would like her to treat.

For anything, although an attitude adjustment would be a good start.

@Rebecca – perhaps you misunderstand. He mocks pseudo-science and mystical/magical thinking because often people avoid science-based, proven treatments for magical thinking, which can sometimes allow diseases to progress and make people sicker.

He also does have a “real life” which includes cancer treatment and research. I think attempting to improve treatment outcomes and save lives is incredibly productive.

What science-based treatment modality do YOU recommend for people?

@ Infuriatingly Moderate:

If you read some of the material I do ** you’ll find that precious little is NOT based on emotional appeals : belief in self-serving theories has nothing to do with data but relies on upon faith in the scenarios that they would PREFER to be true .

So it is easy ( and common) for a person without much background in medicine or psychology to criticise the entire medical establishment about vaccines or about causation of autism or cancer or effecttive treatments for any condition,.The lack of self-criticism allows grand sweeping generalisations about intricate fields that they barely comprehend.
Interestingly enough, this is encouraged by the leaders of these movements who have little academic credentials and appropriate training. but nevertheless, criticise things and people far beyond their ken.

** Natural News, Progressive Radio Network,Age of Autism, Thinking Moms’ Revolution, etc.


Dogs love to be petted. Sure, the dog would probably prefer to be petted with both hands, but dogs are adaptable.

Then there is the cat that used to be in our house, but has fortunately moved to son’s apartment, who would go after you with full claws and teeth when she reached a petting limit. Okay, I can understand a cat getting annoyed at too much touching, but sometimes she would do this after tricking you into petting her. She had a habit of rolling on her back and looking up with an expression that said “rub my belly!”, only to use that as an opportunity to attack the compliant hand.

I love the lack of specifics in Ms. Petrovic comment. What exactly is she complaining about?

@Chris – that’s exactly what my cat does sometimes – we call this “cat trap” and have learnt to recognize it. So we also have a lot of cat toys and when we suspect that she wants to wrestle with our hands, not really be petted, we use the toys.

Ah, the “cat trap.” We also learned to recognize it, and would only respond with a foot encased in a shoe. She has very sharp claws and teeth.

She is now a bit older (about eight year old) and has calmed down. Since my son’s apartment is the gaming meeting place for his college friends on the nights he does not work, she has become accustomed to young male visitors. But she now distrusts anyone outside that demographic. When son had to de-flea the apartment I took her to our house. After he called to say we could bring her back, she hissed and clawed at me when I tried to pick her up.

Cats must be forgetful, because I used to be her favorite person in the world. But that was when she lived at our house and I was the one who fed her.

@ Rebecca Petrovic: I posted a rather “insolent” comment on this blog last year, about Reiki being used to repair household appliances. (If Reiki “works” for humans and pets…why not try “treating” a leaky hot water heater?):

I wonder if you would like to comment on this particular method of repairing household appliances 🙂

P.S. I opted for “traditional treatment”; it cost me $1500 to replace the hot water tank.

She had a habit of rolling on her back and looking up with an expression that said “rub my belly!”, only to use that as an opportunity to attack the compliant hand.

That behavior is not generally an invitation. The gesture is the showing, and that alone.

P.S. I opted for “traditional treatment”; it cost me $1500 to replace the hot water tank.

All you had to do was dilute cold water in lots of, er, water, bash it against a bible, and treat the tank with it. Get with the program.

(If the water stays cold at first, it’s just a sign that the treatment is working, flushing the toxic cold water out of the system. Stick with it.)

She had a habit of rolling on her back and looking up with an expression that said “rub my belly!”, only to use that as an opportunity to attack the compliant hand.

I saw on a documentary a she-lion using the same tactic to trick her prey (a gnu, if I remember correctly) into reach of her claws and teeth. Rolling on her belly in front of it and daring it to try to gore her. And catching and raking it as soon as if complied
The poor gnu was game in more than one sense…

Nooooooo, Reiki is also very fashionable.

All the cool kids are doin it!

@Rebecca Petrovic:

It must be a pretty sad life when you have NO WONDERMENT for anything!!

I have plenty of wonderment in my life. Scientists are finding worlds around other suns. Venus just transited the sun and JAXA took a photograph of the event so good it showed Venus as a globe. AIDS is no longer a death sentence. I can have fresh fruit in the middle of winter. My father can still live an active life (and drive!) in his 80s.

I don’t need elves, ghosts, chi, orgone, or any of the other blither to feel that the world is a wonderful place worth exploring.. I have so much wonderment that I have to ration it to the real world or I’d be overwhelmed.

Truth be told, I think it’s folks who need fairy tales to experience wonderment that’re missing out.

— Steve

@Rebecca Petrovic: (and all the Storms of the world)

It must be a pretty sad life when you have NO WONDERMENT for anything!!
Tim MInchin says it so well:

Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?

Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable, NATURAL world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?

<blockquote. Just because things like Reiki and Acupuncture aren’t fully based in “empirical science” does not mean that they are not amazing healing arts!!

You’re perfectly correct–it isn’t that they aren’t based in empircal science that means they aren’t amazing healing arts, it’s the fact that they’ve never been shown to actually heal anyone of anything that means they aren’t amazing healing arts.

Not published in a real journal, so no reason to grant it any credibility at all.

To summarize: mice healed of cancer with “woo woo” healing. Multiple experiments with extraordinary results conducted at accredited post-secondary institutions including medical schools. 87.9% of lab mice injected with breast cancer in 4 separate experiments have full life-span cures.

Again, not a real journal, so no reason to believe it is a real paper or that they actually did the science. And no evidence that in the last twelve years it has been replicated.

Marg, that paper is laughable. Did you notice how there are absolutely no statistical analyses done on their results in order to support their conclusions? Do you find that odd?

In one of their ‘experiments,’ 10/11 ‘treated’ mice experienced remission while 7/8 ‘control’ mice experienced remission. Do you see why the lack of statistics might be a problem? How are we meant to estimate how often the observed results could occur by chance alone? The authors claim that this data is evidence that their treatment is “successful in curing mammary adenocarcinoma,” a claim that’s laughable at best. You can’t just throw some numbers on a page and call it evidence.

Of course, this would only be relevant for a properly designed, well controlled, blinded study and this ‘article’ fails hilariously on all counts.

In one of their ‘experiments,’ 10/11 ‘treated’ mice experienced remission while 7/8 ‘control’ mice experienced remission.

The proposition, advanced with a straight face, appears to be that the controls were quanto-spiritually entangled with the experimental group.

RE the reiki mouse study. I did read it. As only a lowly BS in ChemE who made microchips for a living even I can spot so much fail in there that it just isn’t funny. Person running the experiment becomes the “healer”? FAIL. Breaking protocol and “visiting the control group?” FAIL. Assuming that because the results between the experimental and control group were almost the same that it must have been magical resonance healing?? FAIL!

All experiments require assumptions – e.g., in this case that the mice should have all died from their induced cancers. So what does the mystery “disinterested professor of biology” who injected the mice with cancer have to say about it? Why wasn’t this professor cited in the paper?

This quote from Narad’s link is quite informative:

“It is not the difference between the experimental and control groups that is the important question, it is the difference between what happened and what ought to have happened”.

When your experiment doesn’t come out “right”, you don’t automatically assume it was “magic”. You go back and check your assumptions FIRST.

In any case, if Dr. Bengston (PhD, Sociology) is so sure of the innate energy healing ability that can “resonate” through walls, I’m sure cancer patients everywhere would chip in and pay a few bucks each for him to walk through the halls of any major hospital and cure everyone.

I’m still not sure who David Krinsley really is – I keep getting hits for a professor of geology.

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