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.
Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

She’s got the whole dog in the palm of her hands!

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 or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:59 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

kevin frazelle from boerum hill says:
"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' ". what a totally irrattional, unscientific comment by Ghirlanda. has this person done a study of the dogs here and determined whether or not the stressed dogs are better with or without someone giving them this kind of attention? does he understand that dogs respond better to some people than others? is that too irrational for him? what if teh act of standing near a cage and giving personal, focused attention to a stressed dog in itself was therapeutic? i find it appalling that people like Ghirlanda are allowed to voice their unchallenged opinion here, based on no observation, as if it is fact. Cho is not proclaiming anything. i suspect Ghirlanda spends more time buried in books than helping dogs. that's why we need people like Cho.
May 4, 2017, Noon
Billy from ex Bay Ridge says:
We might be talking about two different things here.

Reiki itself may have no positive effect on the animals, while the act of human kindness and attention does. Cho could be reading the declaration of Independence to the dogs, and they will react positively if the reading is done with affection.
May 4, 2017, 1:03 pm
Carol says:
Is it Reiki or is Cho? This article is confusing!
May 4, 2017, 1:29 pm
Billy from ex Bay Ridge says:
Cho is the woman's surname. Cho is practicing Reiki. Lol.
May 4, 2017, 1:41 pm
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
Kevin Frazelle: Get a grip.
Ghirlanda was addressing one (1) specific thing -- the effectiveness of Reiki -- not all of the other stuff you dragged into this.
May 5, 2017, 12:59 am
Lauren from Park Slope says:
I'd say keep uptight Professor Ghirlanda away from the dogs. They're under stress already.
May 5, 2017, 9:21 am
Dottie from Coney Island says:
She's a scammer, she's just trying to get the money. Comes in claiming to Reiki the dogs, then she takes da money!
May 5, 2017, 2:45 pm
Ezra from Brighton Beach says:
Dottie from Coney Island, have you read the article? She's a volunteer, that means no getting any money, so you need not worry.
May 6, 2017, 1:07 pm
Derp from Derping your mom says:
You idiots! She's not saying reiki, she's saying "rikey". Me rikey dog meat, soooo
May 6, 2017, 10:42 pm
Phun Chu Wang from China says:
Derp - what is problem? You American so uptight! People go hungry, yet you keep all these delicious dogs locked up and no one can eat them!
May 7, 2017, 5:42 am

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: