Many dogs come to Streetdog Foundation with some kind of health issue. Whether it’s heart worms, mange, broken bones or infected eyes, most are in need of some kind of medical care. But sometimes the healing they need is the spiritual kind and that’s what volunteer Ann Dwyer tries to provide for them.
Ann is a practitioner of reiki, a healing art that originated in Japan.
“It’s not nearly as mysterious and mystical as people think,” she says. Her introduction to reiki was at a mountain spa near Guadalajara. “A guy there was offering it and I thought, I don’t know what this is but I don’t think it can hurt me. It turned out to be the most profoundly cathartic thing I’ve ever done in my life. I cried tears of release.” When she got home she couldn’t stop thinking about it and wondered, is this something that could work for animals? Sure enough, she found a book called Reiki for Dogs and ended up studying under the author and earning her master's certificate in animal reiki.
“You form a loving bond with the animal, create a healing space around it. You don’t even have to touch the dog. It’s completely non-invasive.”
Ann was introduced to Streetdog when her daughter took her to visit some of the dogs at Grace Animal Hospital. Juno was there with her brand new litter of puppies and Ann loved the energy of the staff and volunteers. The second time she visited she met Scarlett, who was in such bad shape when she was rescued she couldn’t even walk.
“I wasn’t using animal reiki that much but I thought, if they’ll let me, this will be perfect. Scarlett was on the back row and there was so much noise back there. I didn’t want to disturb her by opening the kennel door, so I just sat with my back against the wall and started my little bit of chanting and meditation and all of a sudden all the dogs got quiet. And Scarlett stuck her paw under the door and reached out to me. I was shaking all over. That was really the beginning.”
And then there was Monk. There was Iris, to whom Ann was a Godmother. And there was Queenie, River, Eliza, Wallace, Isaac, just a few of the dogs for whom Ann has provided healing energy and a calming presence in what can be a very stressful environment for a sick animal.
“I have time that most of the other volunteers just don’t have. I can sit with a dog for several hours. But I have to race back home to take care of my own!”
Among her other contributions, Ann is also on the photography committee and says her favorite part of that is getting to photograph adoption ceremonies. “It’s such a happy occasion. I get a lot of pleasure out of it and I’m always glad when they ask me to do it.”
Ann will proudly tell you she’s the oldest SDF volunteer, the uncrowned matriarch.
“The friendships, the mission, it really transcends age. There’s a lot of serious rescue business happening but we have a lot of fun. I get such a boost out of young, smart, energetic people with this common mission and it’s way past ego, age and all that. It’s just one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”
But the driving force behind her dedication to helping animals is the memory of her son, who at 15 years old was struck and killed by a drunk driver.
“Even at a very young age he was an animal activist. I know he was the only vegan at Houston high school! He protested. We spent a lot of time in Mexico and worked with baby sea turtles. I just can’t tell you how dedicated he was to animals.
As a mom, you still have all this love to give. What do you with it? It’s always there and it keeps me going. It was so important to him and that’s why I do it.”