Maybull the bulldog was confused. A stranger was kneeling beside her, doing something peculiar.

The stranger, Deborah Spindler, a former public health nurse and current certified Healing Touch practitioner, was rotating a pendulum above Maybull's body to analyze her chakras. The chakras, the six centers of energy located along the backbone, are regarded in Eastern medical tradition as the connection between the inner body and the rest of the world. If the pendulum made wide circles around a chakra, it meant the chakra was open, but small circles indicated blockage and possible physical or emotional problems.

Pet owners, says Spindler, are beginning to realize that techniques such as Healing Touch, already used in area hospitals such as Abbott Northwestern, can help their animals as well. Several Twin Cities veterinarians have begun to include Healing Touch in their practices.

Maybull's root chakra is blocked

Maybull is fairly healthy for an 8-year-old dog, says Spindler, but there are energy blockages on the root chakra (the grounding chakra) at the base of her tail, and the sacral chakra (the relationship chakra), positioned just below her navel.

Bodywork practitioners like Spindler can often feel or see energy in their patients' bodies. "Maybull has very strong energy at her heart chakra, the center of unconditional love," she explains.

Helping the fearful, sick or abused

A lot of Spindler's work is done with frightened and fearful dogs. She's aided dogs that have been sick or abused. "We work with dogs that have internalized trauma and magnified that trauma in biting and other negative behavior," she says. "The treatments help release the blockages and open the animals to learning new behavior."

She also works with animals suffering from chronic health problems including cancer and arthritis, as well as animals recovering from injury or surgery. "Whether I'm treating 2-legged or 4-legged beings, I'm looking for imbalance. By trying to clear the energy systems, you allow the body to heal itself."

Healing Touch sessions usually last about 20 to 30 minutes once the dog is comfortable with the practitioner. Treatments aren't magic cures, explains Spindler, and they don't replace traditional veterinary care, but they can help the healing process.

Help for humans and animals

When treating humans, Spindler usually keeps her hands a few inches off the patient's body, but that technique often worries dogs, so she begins this session by placing her hands on Maybull's tail chakra, where she finds a minor blockage, then advances gently up the backbone. "I'm putting some energy into her hip," Spindler says. "Dogs are much more sensitive to this kind of treatment than humans," she says. "Animals will shift their bodies so you'll know what they need."

Maybull receives treatment

Maybull has shifted her body from the dining room to the living room and is panting nervously. But a minute later, she comes back to Spindler and licks her hand - not something she usually does to strangers.

Maybull sometimes has trouble with cysts between her toes, not uncommon in wide-footed dogs. Spindler moves her fingers just above Maybull's toes, working to eliminate energy blockages. "She can feel this," Spindler says. "It's working - I feel heat around her foot." Maybull usually objects to people touching her feet, but today she reclines and offers her foot to Spindler for more treatment. "Once a dog gets used to receiving treatment, she usually ends up feeling more relaxed," she says. On cue, Maybull begins to snore.

"Dogs lighten our hearts," Spindler explains. "They think their job is to make us laugh and love more. It's nice to give back and help them when they are in distress. What I learn from animals, I can take when I treat humans. What I learn from humans, I can take to help animals."

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Stephanie Fox is a freelance writer from Minneapolis.