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Ay chi-huahua! Volunteer channels healing energy into stressed pups at Kensington shelter • Brooklyn Paper

Ay chi-huahua! Volunteer channels healing energy into stressed pups at Kensington shelter

Dog whisperer: Reiki practitioner Esther Cho soothes an anxious dog at Sean Casey Animal Rescue with the power of chi.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Call it a Shih-pseudo science!

A Prospect-Lefferts Gardens woman uses the mystical power of chi every week at Sean Casey Animal Rescue, where her ability to channel the healing energy has done wonders to calm stressed dogs awaiting adoption, according to the no-kill shelter’s beloved founder.

“She gives off an energy that gets the dogs to a nice calm place, and helps them relax,” said Sean Casey. “It helps with their stability in the shelter until they can find a permanent home.”

Esther Cho, who began studying Reiki — which harnesses the body’s life force via the palm of the practitioner’s palms — under Zen Buddhist master Inamoto Sensei Namoto about three years ago, typically makes house calls for clients throughout the city. But she spends an hour every Monday working with the larger dogs at Casey’s E. Third Street shelter, working with the dogs both as a pack, and with lone wolf individuals who need special attention, Her goal? T reassure the pooches that their stay in the shelter is temporary, and that the good life awaits, she said.

“I not only help them relax, but I send them the message that this is temporary — you’re going home,” Cho said.

Cho first visited the Kensington shelter earlier this year to donate some spare blankets, but was hesitant to become too involved with the pooches stuck there, fearing the plight of the hapless hounds would leave her heartstrings in tatters, she said.

“I didn’t really mean to volunteer there, because I didn’t think I could handle it emotionally,” Cho said. “I take things to my heart.”

But something drew her inside, and she began working with an especially anxious mutt named Papaya who became instantly calm, she claims.

“He was thrashing his body against the cage wall, back and forth, back and forth, and I did Reiki and he calmed down really fast,” Cho recounted.

That same day, a mother and her son decided to adopt the now-placid Papaya, and Cho knew she couldn’t turn her back on the other needy dogs there.

“It was like the universe’s sign saying to do this,” she said.

Now, Cho is looking for other Reiki practitioner’s willing to donate their time at the shelter to help lighten the load.

“There’s usually always one dog that’s extra stressed and they need individual attention,” Cho said.

Reiki is classified as a pseudo-science, and is not accepted by the medical community, according to Stefano Ghirlanda, an animal behavior expert and psychology professor at Brooklyn College.

The Japanese healing technique has no actual benefits for the dogs, and should not be used in lieu of proven therapeutic measures, Ghirlanda said.

“My personal and professional opinion is that Reiki will be ineffective at curing anything, including stress in dogs, and therefore it can be harmful if employed in place of effective treatment,” said Ghirlanda.

But the proof is the pudding, according to Casey, who said you only have to be present to witness the hush that falls over the usually chaotic shelter to know that Cho — at the very least — is for real.

“It helps,” Case said. “You can see when Esther is there she brings the kennel to a silence.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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