My diagnosis is not unique but my world was turned upside down by Multiple Sclerosis. I had difficulty processing the sudden onslaught of emotions. I was scared, upset and angry. While the reaction to my diagnosis was difficult, it was no doubt made easier being in the company of my two dogs, Cornelius and Melon.
Cornelius has been around since the onset of my disease. My first episode of what would later be called MS landed me a bed on a neurology unit. The situation was uncomfortable, the bed was uncomfortable, I was uncomfortable. One request I had was to have a photo of Cornelius for my bedside. While I was fortunate to see my family every day, I missed my dog. That was until one resident recognized the impact a visit from my dog would have and told my boyfriend to bring him. While I don’t remember much of that hospital stay, I vividly remember his visit. He shared my bed, a walk and of course my sandwich. As much pain as I was in, I was less painful with him at my side.
Cornelius is my social butterfly. He keeps me engaged with the world. Being a greyhound mix, he is stubborn. He challenges me to teach and expose him to situations from which some greyhound owners would shy away. Not only does this improve our human animal bond and stimulates us mentally, it keeps me socially active and maintains friendships that may otherwise be strained given the possible limitations of the disease.
Melon was adopted not long after my official diagnosis. We had been looking to add a second dog to the family for several months and she came along at the right time. Emotionally, I was struggling. Struggling to understand a disease that was now my own, to navigate symptoms I still felt and what it all meant for my future. There were so many unknowns and I felt lost. But, there was Melon. I knew how to care for a dog and with her we had to start with the basics. As a former shelter dog, we will never know what she experienced in her past life but in the past two years we have had many milestones. We celebrate the successes and persevere through the challenges.
Melon is my emotional barometer. She knows when I need to rest and recharge. Her bully breed mix makes her an expert couch companion. The exuberance for her leash pushes me to get outside. Her grunts and kisses make me laugh every single day. I consider her my diagnosis dog because she really did come into my life at what I consider my lowest. When I really needed something to focus on other than myself.
Living with MS is all about uncertainty, but sharing my life with these dogs while navigating a chronic illness has made that unknown much easier to bear. The positive feelings that fill your heart while spending time with a dog cannot go unnoticed or unappreciated. It took some time to realize that there is life after a diagnosis of MS and for me, having dogs in my life makes it that much better.