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Julie  Stachowiak, Ph.D.

How My Dogs Help Me Cope with MS

By December 31, 2012

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About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog called Dogs and Multiple Sclerosis. I mentioned that there were dogs that helped people with MS in many ways, including service dogs and balance dogs.

In this blog, I also mentioned that I was looking forward to getting a dog - actually 2 dogs - specifically, basenji puppies. I was looking forward to training them and working with them, as well as taking them on long walks. Over 80 people responded to that blog, telling me how much their dogs helped them. I was a little surprised at how much love people expressed in their comments. I have had dogs before, and I loved them, of course, but didn't remember feeling it as deeply as many of these people did.

Then I got my puppies - I loved them instantly, but they were a lot of work. After living through the first 2 months and getting into our groove in terms of housebreaking and routines, I suddenly realized that they were truly therapeutic.

I found that I talked to them constantly when no one else was around. I laughed at every little thing they did. I thought about them when I was away from them. I fell deeply in love with those two little puppies.

Now a year has passed and my puppies are dogs. They are still lots of work - they need to be walked, they steal socks and dishcloths, and get into other mischief when they feel like they are not getting enough attention at that moment.

However, I am convinced that because of these dogs:

  • I laugh much more.
  • I worry less about messes.
  • I focus less on annoying MS symptoms, especially when it is time to go for a walk.
  • I talk to all sorts of new people - people interested in my dogs and people with dogs that I am interested in.
  • I snuggle more with my daughters as they, in turn, snuggle with the dogs.
  • I feel better - physically and emotionally.
  • I forget about MS for long stretches of time.

That's how my dogs help me cope with MS. What about you? How about your dogs? What are the ways that your dogs (or other pets) make living with MS just a little easier? Leave your story in the comments section below.

Comments
January 1, 2013 at 11:15 am
(1) Bryan says:

My dogs are the closest thing I have, and am likely to ever have, to children. I love them deeply and the love they return is well worth the inevitable heartbreak when they grow old and die. In my 42 years, I don’t think there’s a single period longer than 6 months when I didn’t have at least one dog. Now I have 3. Two that are mine and one that belongs to my Aunt who moved in with me. They are a lot of work but they’re also the source of a lot of joy and happiness.

The Bible speaks of animals in Heaven. The sheep lying down with the lion and children being able to play with serpents. If there is any animal that has a soul and deserves to go to heaven, it’s a dog. From our earliest days as hunter-gatherers, humans and canines have had a close relationship. I believe God put them here specifically to be our companions, helpers, and friends.

January 2, 2013 at 10:56 am
(2) mary says:

My dogs are my life…guaranteed they are work but they are such a GOOD work so rewarding. they KNOW me so very well my every move…if it were not for my dogs I guess I could some how just not really exist 100%
They keep me “going” and I love the dearly.

January 2, 2013 at 10:58 am
(3) Eric says:

My mom always said she almost feels sorry for dogs as they are so devoted. I always grew up with a dog but my wife never did. She has MS and uses a walker. We got a toy poodle going on 7 years ago and the devotion and loyalty he has shown my wife has been amazing.

My wife is alone alot when I am at work and my son is at school and he keeps her company all day long and sits either right on her lap or next to her. When she gets up he leads the way. When she goes to bed he makes sure she is settled in and then he comes down as if to say she is all set. I think his name fits him perfect for all of us: “Buddy”. He has brought so much joy to our family.

January 2, 2013 at 11:01 am
(4) Bob says:

I totally agree that dogs are the best answer to sadness, pain, loneliness and just about everything. We have two rescues and I often wonder who rescued who? Thanks for noting these special gifts from above!

January 2, 2013 at 11:10 am
(5) Jodi says:

My dogs are my children. Without my furkids, I don’t know what I would do. I would give my life for them. Coming home to them after work is the best part of my day. In fact, when I pulled up to my house, saw them in the window waiting for me, but didn’t want to get out of the car, that’s when I realized I was depressed and needed to do something about it. Unlike some people, they are happier when I’m having a bad day and tired…then they can fight over which one of them sits on my lap.

I have Bichons, so my babies can’t help me with my balance or help me pick things up, but what they do give me–unconditional love and acceptance–is invaluable.

January 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm
(6) Amy says:

What timing this article is, just put down my dog of 14 years on the 31st. I had love for her like I’d never known. I’m married and have kids so I know that love, but this was different. She was a therapy dog, of sorts, a couple of times she did help me with my balance and was my constant companion whether I was in bed not feeling well, outside trying to do yard work or on the couch for hours. Go hug your dog…..

January 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm
(7) Jennifer says:

Dogs aren’t the ONLY pets that help people with or without MS!

I have two Seal Point Siamese kittens, Max and Sonny. They are my furr-babies. My life would be so empty without them, I know because in 2012 I had to put not one but both of my Siamese cats to sleep, Gizmo in January, he was 14 yrs old and Mia in May, she was 20 years old. It broke my heart!

The only thing that saved me was getting Max and Sonny. They are half brothers. They play, they fight and they sleep together. They liven up the whole house and make me smile EVERYDAY!

They can’t help me with any physical limitation (thank God I don’t have any right now but they give me something more valuable, LOVE!

They aren’t dogs but Max can fetch better than any dog!

January 2, 2013 at 6:40 pm
(8) Kim says:

My husband and I have a Parsons Russell and a Rat terrier type-B. They are our furkids. I am grateful that the Lord gave me to such vibrant and compassionate animals.

January 2, 2013 at 7:16 pm
(9) David Duez says:

I had been diagnosed about a year when we got our shelter dog Gryff (short for Gryffindor – my 8 year-old son wanted to name him Harry Potter, but this was my compromise). This dog has helped me more than anything – more than the drugs, more than the compassion and understanding of friends and family. He and I just love each other unconditionally and there are no words to explain how grateful I am for him when I return home from another exhausting day of teaching high school with MS. He has helped our family come together more as well. He is a positive in a sea of uncertainty. We have two cats and love them dearly, but it is not the same as having a dog. The mere fact that Gryff forces me out of doors every day is a big deal. I do not think I realized how down (trying not to say depressed, but it is what it is) I was before we got Gryff. I’m still struggling with it, but he helps me tremendously. Your story is right on the money.

January 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm
(10) Elle says:

I could not imagine my life without a dog in it! I had a a beautiful springer spaniel for 17
Years who sensed on occasions I was unwell even before anyone else in my house did …… Myself included! She was amazingly perceptive , fun loving, loyal companion ever . Now that she has crossed over I have the pleasure of having a gorgeous retriever shepard. He motivates me to go walking and to get going in the morning. I can safely say he has got me through many relapses with his constant companionship and motivational skills:) love your blog julie thank you.

January 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm
(11) Adrian Horne says:

Exercising my old Inuit was the first thing to show up the early stages of PPMS, as it was during his walks that I began to drag my left foot due to developing dropped foot. He was a 40kg Alsatian, Husky, wolf but so gentle and understanding of my limitations. Suddenly, one Sunday, he had 4 agonising fits in 4 hours (brain tumour) and I lost him much to my despair. Having just got a months food, and being sure NO other dog could suit my MS, I went to the pound where I bought him 10 years before to hand the food over.As I arrived a kennel maid approached me with the words “Adrian, you know your Inuits” and I knew I may not go home alone !!! She requested I look at a female huddled in the back of her kennel, several people had tried to re-house her but couldn’t cope. It seemed she had been puppy farmed in a cage for 4 years and was a wreck. At home it was hard work but SLOW progress was made. I even got another dog, an abused 12 month
Old Malamute to teach her to be a dog. 2 weeks later she was found to be pregnant and I soon had 6 pups, 8 dogs in total!!! Not easy events but both dogs have done beautifully and given so much pleasure. They help my walking, balance and relaxation SO much and having had to leave work as a primary teacher they keep me company and KNOW I’m always in for them. The puppies left to lovely homes at 4.5 months btw

January 4, 2013 at 4:07 pm
(12) Ibbyheart says:

I COULDN’T cope with MS if I did not have Two dogs. I feel exactly like you… Just watch the pix on my blog ❤❤❤

You have a great webpage – I really like it – I Wish There where more pictures especially of the basenjiies -they have the cutest language- sounds like cats…

Ibbyheart Denmark
Ibbyheart.com/dogs

January 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm
(13) Lisa says:

I have one dog now and two cats. The unconditional love at all hours is what I love best.

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