Every dog can have its day at new Cork retreat

The Retreat in Kinsale is providing alternative therapies not just for humans, but also their four-legged friends. COLETTE SHERIDAN talks to the duo behind the centre, a veterinary nurse and holistic therapist and hypnotherapist
Every dog can have its day at new Cork retreat
Siobhan Callan, a qualified veterinary nurse holistic therapist working on one of the animals, at The Retreat, Kinsale.

HOLISTIC treatments for animals, such as massage and reflexology, are on offer at a recently opened centre, The Retreat Kinsale, which also provides alternative therapies for humans.

The centre is the brainchild of Siobhan Callan, a qualified veterinary nurse and holistic therapist, and her business and life partner, Geffrey Kane, a hypnotherapist.

Siobhan and Geffrey used to have a free range hobby farm, keeping different types of fowl, as well as sheep, goats and rabbits. However, the couple had to downsize and now live in a houseboat in one of Kinsale’s marines. Living on a boat is something Siobhan always wanted to do.

The couple’s Retreat Centre is five minutes outside of Kinsale town, “in a peaceful spot overlooking Garretstown woods and the Old Head of Kinsale. It’s purpose-built,” says Siobhan, who grew up in Cork.

She is keen to point out that animals can benefit from holistic therapies just as much as people.

“I strongly believe in the ‘one medicine’ approach, with medicine for all animals. The human being, is after all, just another animal. If you look at veterinary medicine, it’s just the same as human medicine.

Siobhan Callan, at work in The Retreat, Kinsale.
Siobhan Callan, at work in The Retreat, Kinsale.

“Often, the technology used in veterinary hospitals is out of date equipment from human hospitals. So why make the distinction? And why shouldn’t our animal companions have access to the complementary therapies we treat ourselves to?”

As far as Siobhan knows, there is nobody else in the country running a holistic centre for both animals and people.

“It’s the culmination of everything I’ve ever done in my personal life and in my professional life — and it’s everything that I love to do.

“The idea for the centre was in my head for ages. I’ve seen them abroad. Clients of mine (whom she treated at the Health Club in Kinsale) said they would bring their animals for treatments (if they could).

“While veterinary clinics are fantastic and modern medicine is amazing, people would like to have options (for their pets) as well as pills. They want their animals to feel well. They know the difference between going to the doctor and going for a holistic therapy. The first is preventative while the holistic therapy brings them back to actually feeling well.

The Retreat is based in Kinsale and offers holistic treatment to humans and animals.
The Retreat is based in Kinsale and offers holistic treatment to humans and animals.

“I was delighted that there’s a market for what I’m doing. What have I got to lose?”

Nobody said to Siobhan that the centre is a mad idea.

“I was expecting people to say that. But people said to go for it.”

Siobhan is animal crackers. She even takes her dog to see Santa at Christmas.

“People spend a fortune on their pets at Christmas time on silly stuff. What I’m offering is actually beneficial for animals. So many households have animals with behavioural issues. I did a lot of travelling around England doing locum work with vets. I was in a practice that had a dedicated feline dermatologist. There was a cat that was so stressed that she had ripped off all her skin. It was very distressing.”

Do animals suffer from depression?

“It’s impossible to really know because we can’t get inside the minds of animals. But in my own experience, myself and my partner went through some hardship and we were a bag of nerves. I watched my dog turn into a bag of nerves as well. He’s a mix of a Collie and an Alsatian. I could see the impact that our mental health was having on him. He was worrying about us. It made me realise how we can completely under-estimate how animals are affected by stress. As we all know, stress is a killer.”

When bringing a dog into The Retreat Kinsale, Siobhan encourages their owner to bring in their bed and their favourite toy. This will make them feel at home as opposed to feeling stressed in a new environment. She says it’s a good idea to bring in dogs just after they have had a nap as they will be more relaxed.

Geffrey Kane, a hypnotherapist, who runs the centre with Siobhan.
Geffrey Kane, a hypnotherapist, who runs the centre with Siobhan.

“I have a blend of oils that I massage into dogs. They are aromatherapy oils that the dogs can safely inhale. It’s good for them and it is healing from within and outside.

“I have also done rehabilitation work with both animals and humans. I watch their gait and their posture. When they’re relaxed, I can do a bit of gentle realignment using my background in yoga and Pilates. I use a mat rather than a table for animals as they’d be inclined to jump off a table.”

When it comes to cats, Siobhan does house calls “as cats can become extremely stressed being transported in a car”.

When Siobhan is treating an animal, she will start with T Touch which was developed specifically for animals. It involves gentle circular touches that work at cellular level to activate the body’s potential.

“Because you’re touching all the body parts, you get a chance to look at the coat of the animal, its skin and eyes, ears and nails. These can all be problematic areas. I will know what to look for clinically at this point.

“You’re feeling soft tissue and any problems underneath. This is something that a veterinary surgeon will do. In England, veterinary nurses take on this workload. The nurses there do everything apart from surgery.”

If anything comes up that requires a vet, Siobhan will advise the pet owner to bring it to the vet.

Siobhan doesn’t have children but says that her maternal instinct is fulfilled through looking after animals.

She loves all animals, even including rats. She used to fear reptiles until she challenged herself to overcome her revulsion.

“It’s believed that reptiles don’t have the capacity to make a bond with people. But I got over my fear of reptiles and actually became fond of them. I love them all and I’m not afraid of spiders either.”

At The Retreat Kinsale, there is a ‘mind room’ where Geffrey does his hypnotherapy. There’s also a ‘body room’ for humans and a separate area for animals.

Geffrey practises hypnotherapy and guided meditation. Giving up cigarettes is the most common reason why people go for hypnotherapy. Also, it’s used for weight loss, phobias and anxiety.

Geffrey does Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy.

“It’s goal orientated. It’s about targeting your issues and discussing triggers for them, things like anxiety and depression. The client goes away with a recording of the session which will continue to help them.”

Find them on Facebook on https://www.facebook.com/TheRereatKinsale/

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