Friday, August 3, 2012

Multiple Sclerosis and Pets


About a year ago, I posted a blog on entitled Dogs and Multiple Sclerosis. In my post, I talked about the fact that I was beginning the process of acquiring two basenji puppies. At that time, I was focused on how much I loved training dogs and how much I was looking forward to that aspect of owning and caring for these dogs.

The outpouring that came from my readers was amazing. Everyone had a story about his or her dog. More specifically, many readers shared how much their dogs helped them during their difficult times with MS. Not having owned a dog in about 20 years, I thought that these were sweet stories, along the lines of the Chicken Soup series.

Then we got our puppies and my life changed. Sure, those early days of puppy ownership were harrowing, with the non-stop demands of housebreaking and middle of the night awakenings to whining and more potty trips outside. However, I realized after a very short time that these dogs were helping me in much the same ways that people had written about so passionately.

I had to walk them and in doing so, I got out of the house at times that I wouldn't have left. I had conversations with people that I had lived near for almost a decade and never met. I laughed lots of times during the day, just watching their antics. 

My very favorite moments became the "puppy naps" that I would take on the couch, with two little dogs curled up on my chest and legs. When an injection would be particularly painful, I could count on a lick on the nose from a concerned-looking little creature (or two).

All of these moments and countless others combined to make my life with MS a little easier, even though during these early puppy months, my MS symptoms were often worse than usual. It seemed like these little dogs were making my MS matter less in many ways.

Now, these dogs have truly become part of the family. We have settled into a pretty nice routine – as I write this, I am listening to one of my daughters read a book to the dogs – she is settled into an armchair with one draped across her and the other curled up next to her, showing more patience working out the "big words" than she ever would have if Mommy was her audience. Moments like this also make my MS less of a factor to my young daughters – at times that I cannot be 100% available to them because of my MS, the dogs are a willing (and often better) substitute.

I know all of you who own pets have their own stories to share. Not only did I get stories about your dogs, I heard about cats, birds, bunnies and horses, too. All of these animals have enhanced the lives of their owners in so many ways. Until I experienced it myself, it was a little hard to believe. Now I know differently.

Share your story with us. Tell us about your pet. Tell us how your life is different because of this pet. Tell us how your pet has helped your MS. Take a moment and shine the spotlight on these wonderful animals whom we love so much.


  1. I inherited my daughter's cat when she moved to a small condo in the city. A favorite time of day is when I take a cat-nap...and have Bella-Kitty-Cat laying over my lap, napping with me. Her purring soothes and comforts even the most challenging MS days.

  2. Animals are a wonderful comfort. We have dogs and cats. I, too, have MS but have found my cats more of a comfort. Especially 1 of them. She will lie next to me when I'm not feeling my best and I find that just by petting her I find a great deal of comfort. My husband, has combat-related PTSD and finds a great deal of comfort from the dogs. When he is having a particularly bad time, 1 of the dogs will climb onto him and will not leave him until he is better. So, in our home our pets are a vital part of our family that we could not do without.

  3. I have the most wonderful cat. Her name is Isis. I lie on my side and she lies right next to my chest so that I can spoon her. She purrs as loud as she can the whole time. Always makes me feel so loved. Seems she is always there when I need her the most.

  4. I could write a book (LOL, we own a bookstore!), but I will keep my comment fairly brief.
    You hit many of the highlights of the joys of pets and MS. I was nodding as I was reading.
    We have two girls, Chula a mixed terrier, and Hope, a Chocolate Lab. They are complete opposites in looks & personalities. But, they both are devoted to me & stick with me, healthy or well. If I am having a stay in bed day, they hang out with me. We take a puppy nap every day. Hope gets antsy if I don't head to bed at the regular time. She has even gone back to the bedroom alone if I am busy or late for our nap!
    I am at home most of the time, so we do spend a lot of time together...and I LOVE It...and so do they!

  5. I recently acquired a very special kitten named Shadow! When my baby was born her umbilical cord was wrapped around her leg and her mama chewed her foot off instead of the umbilical cord. She runs and plays like she's got 4 legs though. She is my love and inspiration. She reminds me that life is fun and disabilities will not stop us from doing what we want! I love her very much.

  6. During my worst exacerbation and at the time I was diagnosed, I could barely get out of bed. Wall-walking to the bathroom was about the limit and I was grateful for the independence to do that.

    The family dog had never been my pal. I'd been a working woman, busy busy busy, and simply fed the dog and occasionally pat her head in passing, but she mostly romped with my sons.

    But during that health crisis she parked herself in the door to the bedroom. She didn't budge from that spot until my husband came home. She didn't let anyone into the room except for my husband and sons. She didn't request anything from me, but was a source of true comfort during a time when I felt vulnerable.

    Later, when I was up and about, she mostly went back to romping with the boys. But there was a change. During quiet times, if I sat at my desk, she sat on my feet. True, that signaled her dominance of me (if you know about dogs), but it felt as if she'd taken me on as her personal project and I appreciated it. When I was in the TV room, she was in the TV room. She went from sleeping in the boy's room to sleeping on the floor along my side of the bed.

    During the scariest time of my life, it wasn't just my family that rallied, but also the family dog, Bosco.

    1. Thank you for that story! It brought tears to my eyes. I am currently living in an apartment that doesn't allow pets, but hopfully moving soon. It is truly amazing how animals just know when its the right time to show you love and unconditional loyalty! I think maybe they can read us better than we think...

  7. Great story. I have 2 Golden Retrievers Cara and Boomer. Cara is my old girl who I rescued in the UK when she was about 6 from a puppy mill. She now lives in Nova Scotia with myself, husband and 2 kids. She is now 14 and has very bad osteoarthritis and is on medication. She is the most laid back, loving dog I have ever had the pleasure of knowing even after the first years of her life being so harrowing. When I look at her I forget about my aches and pains. I do not think we have much time left with her, and remember this every day. She is definatley one of the 'special' ones.
    Boomer is my young boy, and we got him just 9 weeks after being in a new Country! He is the friendliest bouncy boy ever and loves his Cara so much! I too stay at home so have the great pleasure of spending lots of time with my wonderful dogs :)

  8. I was diagnosed in 2006, I decided to get a dog in 2010. I knew it would be good for me. Like you said all the extra exercise that I normally wouldn't be getting and I met a lot of knew people through her. When I went in for my yearly with my neurologist. He was strongly against me owning a puppy and told me that all that was going to happen by owning this dog was, I was going to end up in a wheel-chair and someone else would own my dog. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was so upset that he would be so blunt about it and have the nerve to say that owning a dog is to much work for someone with M.S.. Needless to say I dropped him as a doctor. A year later I still have the dog. I dropped 30 pounds and haven't had a flair up since I've gotten her. Dogs are truly the best medicine.

  9. Two weeks before I had my first MS symptoms my husband surprised me by wanting to adopt not only a second dog, but a tiny second dog! He called me from the rescue wanting me to come down right away. I assumed he had found another Siamese cat until he texted a photo of the cutest little dog. I had never had a small dog, especially a chihuahua mix. I grew up with St Bernards, Dobermans, and other big dogs. I later realized Taaffe was a gift from the unknown.

    As we adjusted to having her I began to go numb and had trouble with balance and walking and many other symproms, all very quickly. This new little dog, Taaffe, along with our big dog and two cats, kept me company as I spent a lot of time quietly at home.

    I changed her name from Taffy to Taaffe because I had just returned from a horseback riding trip in Ireland to celebrate my 50th birthday. In the town of Carlingford I visited was the town castle- Taaffe Castle. That was just a month before my diagnosis. My biggest laugh was the day I returned from a week in the hospital I recieved her DNA test results saying she was part Great Dane!! My 10lb Great Dane.

    I love all my animals but I feel a special bond with Taaffe, my little gift. She rescued me as much as we rescued her.

  10. I bought my boyfriend ,who is living with MS, a German Shepherd for Valentines Day this year. I knew she would change his life because GS are so in tuned to things that are in their environment (I have owned GS's before, but my boyfriend never has). Especially, if there is someone in the home who has a disability. Needless to say, the two of them are the best of buds. Keelia puts a smile on his face after an intense day of work and pain. He works with her and trains her even when he feels he can no longer move. Most of all, she sticks close and loves on him more when she knows he is having a bad day. Because of the amazing results, we will be buying a male in the near future and breeding our baby girl. One of the.pipe from the first litter will be used to train as a service dog. Keelia has not only made the MS easier to live with, but she has changed our lives for the best!

  11. I bought my boyfriend ,who is living with MS, a German Shepherd for Valentines Day this year. I knew she would change his life because GS are so in tuned to things that are in their environment (I have owned GS's before, but my boyfriend never has). Especially, if there is someone in the home who has a disability. Needless to say, the two of them are the best of buds. Keelia puts a smile on his face after an intense day of work and pain. He works with her and trains her even when he feels he can no longer move. Most of all, she sticks close and loves on him more when she knows he is having a bad day. Because of the amazing results, we will be buying a male in the near future and breeding our baby girl. One of the.pipe from the first litter will be used to train as a service dog. Keelia has not only made the MS easier to live with, but she has changed our lives for the best!

  12. I have a Jack Russell Terrier and he is my baby along with my children.The way he looks into my eyes.He knows when I am sad and he makes me smile.

  13. I have a Bedlington terrier, the same breed I had age 6-19, I'm 58 now, Yofee is 10. She is always there for me, especially if I'm home alone. I bought an electric scooter 14 months when my husband and I sold our large house and moved into a lovely, forested 2 bdrm apartment with very nice walkways. I felt left out of the evening walks until I bought the scooter. Pets are part of the family and we dread the day we are empty nesters again.

  14. I have dogs and cats but it is this one cat that I think of as comforting me the most with my MS.
    I had switched from Copaxone to Avonex and that first night was horrible. I ached so bad and I was laying in bed shaking all over. I was almost convulsive in my shaking. My cat came in bed and watched me for a moment, I guess trying to figure out what was going on. She then laid the front of her body over my legs and tried to hold me down. I was laying on my side in fetal position and there this little kitty of mine, trying to hold my legs still. I was still shaking so she got up completely on my thigh and laid there purring and I thought of what a loving thing she was doing. It made me smile though I was in so much pain and quite scared by all the shaking. She was clearly trying to comfort me. I was still shaking terribly and she eventually stretched her whole body out down my leg and I could feel both her paws trying to cover my ankles and she stretched even more and covered my feet. The warmth of not only her body, but her love, finally stopped my shaking and I was able to dose off to sleep.
    She will do this for me whenever I have twitches too. She will lay on that part of my leg or arm that is twitching and make it stop. She is so so sweet sometimes, it makes me cry.


  16. What would I do without Isabella, my little Shih Tzu?! She is curled up on my feet as I type this. With her sweet, funny personality she is a constant joy and source of unconditional love.

  17. Like Marie, "what would I do without" Kia, my little Lhasa Apso. She makes having MS so much more bearable with her 24/7 love, constant (and I mean constant) companionship by my side. I can't wait for the day when the world wakes up and classifies any companion dog to the disabled a privileged "therapy dog" so they can accompany us everywhere.

  18. interesting development re my bedlington...manager of our ground floor rental apartment had told us our dog had to be on a leash everytime she was outside, 16 months after we were given special permission to use wireless invisible febnce. I have MS and can walk her with that if it's not too hot. Nat'l MS Society had me contact our county disabilty advocate who emailed me and explained that the fair housing law protects people with disabilities to the point, in my case, that I can have the inv fence...more complicated than this, but the point is, contact the Nat'l MS Soc if you have a problem, they'll get you in touch with the right agency.

  19. For the first time in 18 years I have found myself without a dog. I have yet to muster the courage to become so attached again to a dog, and at the moment it is hard to imagine any dog could be as wonderful as my springer spaniels. The unconditional love, their joy each and every morning at seeing me and the comfort of a snuggle with a warm friend all eased the sense of being set apart and outside normal, everyday life. For now I have chosen chickens, which are just fine, but will not take hold of my heart and break it. I guess time heals all things so we will see. It is nice to read of fellow dog lovers and to not feel so alone.

  20. I have 3 dogs, 2 cats and 4 birds. The dogs are a chihuahua, an alpine Australian shepherd and a lab/retriever mix. I do not know how I would survive this disease and being home without them. They all get along which is amazing in of it's self. They are my confidents, children and best friends wrapped into one.
    I have struggled training the lab/retriever mix since my MS has progressed and I am getting a power wheelchair next week any help with how to train her with a wheelchair will help. They are so loving and smart they know when I am having a good or bad day and when I need a loving hug.

  21. For a long time,I have believed in the power animals hold over us "humans". Whether it be the quadrapaledgic who can't move his arm until you bring a dog close enough to pet, to a cat's purr "snapping" a woman out of a deep depression, to a golden retriever physically holding a woman down, knowing she is just moments away from another seizure, animals know. They just KNOW. I am developing quite the little "farm" with cats, dogs, bunnies & chickens; soon adding mini ponies, beef cattle, lambs & pigs! Oh My! Each of my critters offers me help in a different way, from forcing me to get out of bed to let them outside, or walk across the yard to do chicken "chores", to just snuggling next to me in bed letting me cry & feel bad for myself because the fatigue beat out my daughter for my attention.

    If I needed one of my animal therapy "units" the most, it would be my 10 year old lab, "Tank". At 120#+, he's large enough to help me balance and to be a big enough target to pet when my coordination is off. He also KNOWS when my MS is particularly bad or a flare-up is looming- he follows me everywhere, staying real tight. When he's extra-clingy, I tend to slow down & take it easy. He is animal rock. He's also a great listener who doesn't need to "understand", unlike my human supports. As much as I need my family to support, I equally need my critters.

    Animals will always be part of my MS therapy...and my life.

  22. I am wondering if this is even possible or if anyone has heard about anything like this before:

    My name is Holly. I have 3 dogs that are my children and the joys of my life. One of my dogs, Gracie, is a black lab mix that I adopted in the parking lot of a Walmart one day about six years ago.
    Before I was diagnosed with MS, Gracie started "Herding" me to the couch. At first this was downright annoying and I was stumped by this new behavior. I tried to avoid it, but she was insistent and would not be happy until I was on the couch. I thought it was because she wanted to lay down beside me, as she is a bit of a cuddle puppy.
    After a few times, I started to notice a pattern. After I was "herded" I noticed that very soon after, I would get ill. I would either get dizzy, the shakes or very very tired and sick feeling.
    Needless to say, I now listen to my pup. She is a marvelous dog and I believe she has ESP (Extra Special Puppy-sense). Has this ever happened to anyone else before? I think it is strange and special! She lays with me until I feel better, then she gets up and is wild dog again.