Tammy Bowers left nothing to chance when Lexie, her 8-year-old Labradoodle, was scheduled to have several cancerous tumors removed two years ago.
Before surgery and again after, the Howard County resident made appointments for Lexie to see Shari Sternberger, a local energy worker. At her Elements of Energy studio in Highland, Sternberger uses a combination of holistic methods to treat animals (and humans) for everything from pain to anxiety to skin conditions.
“Shari actually treated her before her surgery and after her surgery,” Bowers says. “She did her energy healing, so it helped Lexie recover quicker.”
Bowers says Lexie, whose cancer is now remission, took well to the treatments.
“She was very comfortable and responded very well to Shari,” she says. “And it was amazing that the doctors said that she had a quicker recovery.”
Sternberger admits it’s a treatment that few understand. But her results are gaining attention and a growing client base.
“More and more places are finding that when energy work is used, the animal heals quicker, the animal doesn’t have as many behavioral problems,” she says, adding that it’s not always easy for people to understand or trust in what she does. And she’s clear that she neither offers miracle cures nor discourages clients from seeking traditional medical treatment.
Energy work seeks to balance the body’s energy centers, which support the body in healing itself on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Called Healing Touch for Animals, Sternberger’s work involves the use of gentle, light or near-body touch to promote healing. By inducing deep relaxation, Healing Touch stimulates circulation and increases oxygen-, nutrient- and hormone-flow throughout the body. The thinking is, once balance is restored to an animal’s energy system, it can better heal itself.
Sternberger, whose clients are split evenly between animals and humans, works with several modalities including Healing Touch, tuning forks, essential oils, flower essences, light and sound.
“Everybody has an energy field and animals have them too,” she says. “If they get ill, it gets out of balance. By using some gentle techniques to either clear the field or help stabilize the field, it helps put everything in balance.”
One of the simplest Healing Touch techniques, Sternberger says, is to hold her hands above an animal’s body and “rake her hands” through the energy field. This method can be used to help clear anesthesia from the animals’ energy field after surgery.
The tuning forks, which are placed on various parts of the body, are also used to help balance an animal’s energy field. Some tuning forks, when combined, “provide a perfect balance of yin and yang, which vibrationally nourishes the body,” she explains.
Essential oils, on the other hand, activate certain sensors in the brain when diffused.
“By diffusing the essential oil of orange or citrus blends it helps with what I call doggie depression,” she says. Lemon grass and geranium essential oils, she adds, are good at repelling ticks and fleas, and lavender helps soothe skin issues.
Light, on the other hand, heals by entering the body and connecting with the animal on a cellular level. Sternberger typically uses a light pen or crystals, placing them on different parts of the body, depending on what she’s treating.
“It just calms the whole system down and allows everything to work better together,” she says.
Sternberger decides a course of treatment after conducting a full evaluation, but, as with modern medicine, nothing is 100-percent effective. Sometimes animals don’t respond to certain treatments, which is why she makes a point to always consult with a pet’s veterinarian.
“There are things that we can do in partnership,” she says, adding that despite her certifications, education and study of the craft, working with vets in this area “is painfully slow.”
Matthew Nechin took his dog Shira to see Sternberger after traditional care and medications did not help clear up the dog’s dermatitis.
Sternberger suggested changes Nechin could make to Shira’s diet and to the chemicals he uses around the home. Those changes, coupled with Sternberger’s energy work, helped reduce Shira’s need for traditional medications and aided in the elimination of her hot spots.
“For the animals, most of the people unfortunately come in when it’s the nth hour,” Sternberger says.
Though she says she does all she can to support the animal holistically, she acknowledges the outcome is ultimately out of her hands.
“They’re hoping I can pull a rabbit out of a hat and change the situation,” she says. “That’s not in my control. If something is supposed to happen, it will.”
Sternberger started her business about six years ago, feeling it was work that could fulfill her for the rest of her life.
Though she had always felt a special connection with animals throughout her life, it wasn’t until her dog Gandalf died of cancer that Sternberger realized she wanted to do more to help animals.
In 2001, Sternberger trained to do reiki, a form of energy work. She then went on to study Health Touch for Animals, earning her certification in 2006 after three years of classes, mentoring and conducting case studies. She was later certified in Healing Touch for People.
In her practice, Sternberger works with mostly cats and dogs. But she’s also worked with horses, birds, rabbits and wildlife that’s been injured.
“Believe it or not the animals know that there’s energy work here, so they’ll come and they’ll be on the edge (of the trees near the office), and I’ll just send them energy work,” Sternberger says.
To send the energy, Sternberger says she centers and grounds herself, then gently raises her hands to allow the energy to flow.
“It’s interesting what shows up,” she says. “I’ve got snakes that are here, frogs, hummingbirds. They all seem to sense the energy.”
Sternberger does not typically make house calls, except for the larger animals like horses, but she doesn’t have to have the animal present to do energy work.
“The distance work is hard for people (to understand),” she says, explaining that it operates like a cell phone. To receive a call, the phone must be on.
“The same holds true for the recipient of the remote healing,” she says. “I receive permission to enter the animal’s energy field and then I essentially become the cell tower and send the energy to the animal.”
Clients not only come to Sternberger for her energy work; they also come for her advice.
“I love to educate the owner on tips … they can do at home to make things easier,” Sternberger says.
Cecilia Grimm of Baltimore County brought one-year-old Freya to Sternberger when traditional treatments failed to cure the American bulldog of demodectic mange.
“I had started going the traditional route and she got worse, so I started seeing a homeopath and she recommended getting energy work, so I found Shari,” Grimm recalled. “There’s a pretty small community of holistic animal healers in the Maryland area, so they all know each other.”
Grimm started seeing Sternberger in February, and the combination of traditional treatments along with essential oils and energy work have helped heal Freya.
“She did basic energy work with her, which was quite effective because … her skin was so sensitive,” Grimm says. “It really soothed her.”
Though Grimm says Freya has recovered, she still sees Sternberger.
“Now it’s just kind of like maintaining the health and making sure her immune system doesn’t dip again, since she’s sensitive to things,” Grimm says.