I have the utmost respect for service dogs of all kinds. I know that there are many people with MS that have balance dogs - dogs that are large enough (for instance, Great Danes) to provide a little stability when a person is getting up from a seated position or needs a little help steadying themselves while walking or standing. There are also many other ways that dogs can help us when we need a little (or more) assistance with daily living. (For more information, read Balance Dogs for Multiple Sclerosis).
In fact, an organization called msbeyondmeds was started by a mother and daughter team who want to "open a dialogue" among people with MS, our docs and those close to us about the benefits of service dogs. They also want to improve access to these dogs by convincing government agencies and insurance companies that service dogs really do improve the quality of life of people with MS. Check out their website for all sorts of service dog info.
However, I believe that even dogs that aren't trained as service animals are therapeutic and beneficial to people with MS. Recently I decided that our family will be getting a dog. Two dogs, actually. In my younger years, I really enjoyed training dogs for obedience trials and I have been waiting until my twins were old enough to appreciate a family pet (although I have no delusions about them actually taking care of the dogs on a consistent basis) before we even thought about getting a dog.
I have decided that now is the time. The girls are in school, and I would love some company on my long walks, as well as encouragement to get moving on the days that parts of me want to stay put. I also find the training process therapeutic. It takes me out of my head, so to speak, as I focus on doggy motivation and logic. When I commune with dogs, I take a mental break from the tingling feet, the shaking hands, the crushing fatigue and the myriad other MS symptoms that are part of my life.
So, I've got my name in for two Basenji puppies that have not yet been conceived. If all goes according as anticipated with the planned breeding, my puppies will come to live with us in early Spring. I have to tell you, I'm beyond excited.
Now, I know there are plenty of you who have dogs that make your days a little better. So, whether you have a service dog or just a four-legged pal, purebreds or mutts, one doggy or a whole pack, let's hear from you. What kind of dog do you have? How long have you had your dog? I want to know how your dog helps you feel good. Maybe you will help someone make the decision to bring a new member into their family.