People with MS Talk About How Their Dogs Help Them: Part 1

Sometimes our dogs are the best medicine for MS

Man rubbing dog's belly
Gary John Norman/Getty Images

Some time ago, I wrote a blog entitled Dogs and Multiple Sclerosis, in which I talked about my decision to get two puppies. As I wrote in my follow-up to that article, The Benefits of Pets for People with MS, those little dogs have changed my life in amazing ways. In many ways, they have lessened the impact of my MS symptoms on my life.

What I also got as a result of that original article was an amazing number of stories from readers about how their dogs have changed their lives with MS, as well.

Following are some of my favorite stories that I received. 

Matt says: I have a dachshund named Kody that is absolutely the most important part of my support system. He keeps me feeling loved. The amazing thing about dogs is that they don’t care that you have MS, they love you just as much.

Kody also keeps me challenged and forces me to fight. I want to be able to take care of him for the duration of his life and I make decisions accordingly. He makes me have a more long-term view when I just want to give up.

Also, he’s a bit of a special needs dachshund who can get very scared and very excitable. I have given us both a good life using positive training methods but I don’t think anyone else could deal with him. So it’s important to me to continue to take care of him.

I know that many people with much more severe MS symptoms than I have dogs, so I think even after Kody I will try to have a dog for the rest of my life, if possible.

Although I would probably work through a service dog place next time to get a good dog for a disabled person and to know the dog would have a support system as well if things get bad for me.

Nick "could be good could be bad" says: I have 2 dogs, a 7-year-old Aussie terrier, and a 6-month-old whippet.

The whippet being an “I feel bad purchase." I would be lost without them.

My diagnosis is only 12 months old but things are galloping along. As a result, I find myself stuck in bed a bit of late. But when the pain is at it’s worst and I want to rip my face off. There they are ready to come and lounge all over me. No questions about where does it hurt, or would you like a drink, can I help you up. Just lots of love and a lick of the face to distract me. Way better pain killer than any of that group of boxes in the draw.

Don’t get me wrong love my human carers and what they do for me, but none of them will wag their tails when I come through the door.

Terri says: I decided on getting my first pup when I was told by my neurologist that I would not likely be returning to work because of the specific symptoms of my MS, so this is when I decided on a miniature schnauzer puppy. A year later we adopted a 7-year-old long-haired dachshund. We then fostered a couple of dogs and ended up adopting one of them!

We now have 3 dogs of our own and are presently fostering a sweet boy who will soon be up for adoption. All of this time with my amazing dogs has me appreciating what I DO have…and less on what I don’t have because of my MS. My dogs ensure that I get up each and every day, rain or shine, and take them out for a walk. I am happy and fit – despite my MS. And if I do have a bad MS day…my dogs are understanding and nonjudging and we just take it a bit more slowly. I can’t imagine my life without my sweet dogs!!

Carol says: When I was first diagnosed, I had a dog that went blind due to diabetes. We did not know she was ill but she taught me so much about being brave with an illness and disability. She took her two injections each day and went about her business -- no problem. I adored that dog! We now have two dogs that we dearly love. Cannot imagine my life without them!

Angela says: Diagnosis June 2010 after optic neuritis for the second time at age 49. Woke on the Saturday following dx and declared I want a dog! Our precious Jericho had passed 4 years ago after 17 years and it was time. We adopted a 5-month-old Lab/Golden mix and named her Harlee. The vet told me that Harlee was the best thing I could have done for my immune system and he was so right.

We got Harlee a new puppy for Christmas, a Lab/Hound mix that we named Chloe. They are best of friends and the best dogs in the world. I have studied a tremendous amount on training my babies and they are both wonderful dogs. My focus is no longer MS. In fact. when my symptoms get worse I focus on them and all is well. Without them, I really don’t think I would have survived the DX mentally. I think I would have crumbled but no time for self-pity... my babies need me. And when I need them, they are right there with plenty of kisses. When I need to rest, they are both by my side for as long as I need them to be. I am so blessed. Thanks for the opportunity to share how important our pets are to us MS-ers. XOXOXO

Barbara says: Following a diagnosis in March with the typical ‘new’ symptoms of numbness, dizziness and tingling coupled with the shock of facing this conditions, my long time canine companions were the ones who licked my tears at night and helped remind me this was just a bump in the dog walk of life. A particularly large and very sensitive foster dog we’ve had for a few weeks actually seems to prefer to walk (closely) on my iffy side so I wonder if he senses he might need to help a bit with balance. In any event, one of the best remedies for an MS-induced pity party (or any other emotional swing) is dog baby licking your hand or face.

Karen says: I have an 8-year-old Brittany named Sophie. She is not a big dog but she always sits at my left side and sits on my foot. I think she thinks she is keeping me grounded. Even when I am standing still for a period of time, there she is sitting on my left foot, funny. It just so happens that my left is my weak side, maybe she knows…

Though her breed is very active and sometimes can be work, she is the best and I love her. It gives my husband peace of mind knowing that when he is at work she is right there by my side!

Kelly says: I was dx’d in May 1999. The following April (2000), we found Gypsy our first dog. From the beginning, Gypsy had a special bond with me and shortly thereafter, we began to notice that she would become exceptionally clingy to me at certain times and sure enough within a day or so, I would end up having some sort of flare-up. It was as if she sensed it before I even showed any symptoms! All these years, she has done the same thing and I always know if she becomes extra clingy to me, I should rest up and be prepared. Through the past 11 years, we have added five more dogs to our family and I love each one of them so much. They have all helped me so much on those bad days, especially since in addition to the MS, I received a dx of rheumatoid arthritis four years ago. My six pups give me a reason to push through many days that I otherwise may have just stayed in bed and I love them for that. 

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