The Benefits of Pets for People with MS

Our beloved creatures can truly be the best medicine for our MS symptoms.

A couple of years ago, I posted a blog 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 your own stories. Not only did I get stories about your dogs (read them here: People with MS Talk about How Their Dogs Help Them), I heard about cats, birds, bunnies and horses, too (see Cats and Multiple Sclerosis for stories about how cats have played an important part in the lives of some people with MS). 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.

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