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.
Amber & Panda & Rogue
In 2011, I rescued Panda; it was unplanned but totally fait. Shortly after rescuing her from her entrapment, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Provinces away from family and completely overwhelmed, Panda ended up rescuing me. I survived, and continue to survive because of her love, but not hers alone. My first week of treatment was brutal and I lived alone and being truly stubborn, would be home as often as medically possible. Even when my medical team would encourage me to remain in the hospital. Within that first week Panda expressed to me she didn’t want to be anywhere else, with anyone else. Every trip to the bathroom to be sick, she was the soft pillow of love at the base of the toilet. Every time I was too weak to get up, she was the nose pushing me and the muscle moving me. Every time I cried, felt sorry for myself or got frustrated - she was the kiss that wiped away my tears. It’s a long sob story that carried on for three years. The treatment was harsh, and at times my body rejected it, forcing me to be away from my girl. (She always had a loving caretaker) I still believe I would have healed quicker if I was allowed to bring her with me into the hospitals and surgeries etc. But either way, she endured it all with me. Never leaving me to feel alone or unloved for one second.
In 2014, Panda and I rescued Rogue, a California Blue Nose, riddled with illnesses and needing an astronomical amount of medical attention, Panda and I welcomed the challenge. Together, we rescued and fell head over heels for our little hippo Rogue. Through out our journey, I have developed and battled with depression and anxiety, sometimes questioning if I was the best mom for my girls. They have shown me unwavering love and acceptance but even more than that, they have taught me the power of unconditional love. All three of us continue to save one another every day, sharing an unconditional bond and an undeniable need to love one another throughout whatever pain we may endure. My girls are the kids I cannot physically bare, the endless fountain of joy after a long day, my best friends and the best prescription for my mental health challenges. My angels.
Riane & Syngyn & Quintyn & Lily
We went hiking the Kananaskis Lake Trail. Once we noticed the sun was starting to go down behind the mountains, we kept a closer eye on the time since I knew sunset was at 7:10pm MST. We quickened our pace because I think we both knew it was getting darker faster than it should have been at that time, but we didn't think we were in any danger quite yet. We couldn't see a path at all because it wasn't marked. We were relying on our dog, Lily, to sniff out the path and lead us to the rest of the trail. Without her we probably would have gotten lost. Since humans become utterly useless in the dark we were relying on Lily to let us know if she saw or smelled any danger. We finally made it out of the forest and made it a road. I don't know how far we went before we heard something in the bushes next us, something BIG. It stopped us in our tracks. We heard a lot of big sticks breaking as it moved. Lily immediately laid down, her signal that she sees something. We heard it stop and then start coming towards us. We couldn't see what it was so we just turned around and walked back. Our plan was ruined and it was still getting dark, we could barely see the road. Our only choice was to go back and develop a new plan. We then noticed the pay phone! We put in the coins and dialled our friend’s number to tell them the pickle we were in. The operator answered and told us "You need $2.50 to complete this call"... We didn't have an extra $2 in change that the payphone would accept. We begged them to let us make this call. I started freaking out at the operator while I was crying; telling him that it was pitch black and that this area is bad for bear attacks. The line went dead. After a moment it started ringing and then our friend picked up. We had never felt so relieved to hear their voice! Once again I started crying. We were still out in the open and we felt very vulnerable especially knowing there was something in the bushes not far from where we were. Once our friends had an idea of where we were, we headed to our only choice of shelter: a 3'x6' bathroom. We hunkered down for about two hours until we were rescued.
She was the reason we made it out of the mountains. It was pitch black and there was no marked path. We just let her pull us around hoping she could smell the way. As we were walking through the darkness I could just barely see her ears but I kept my eyes on them because if I heard something in the bushes, but she didn’t react, I knew it was nothing. She provided the comfort I needed to feel a bit safer and so I didn’t have a panic attack. I credit her with saving not just my life or my boyfriends; she saved my sons life too since literally the morning we did this hike we found out we were pregnant. We love her to bits!
Natalie & Cooper
(Cooper) Was sent to us from someone very special! On October 29th Cooper saved mine and Coby’s (Son) life. The motor in my furnace caught fire October 29th and he woke me up at 330 am to tell me something was wrong in the furnace room. He wouldn't let me alone until I got up. He ran to the door and started scratching and growling at it. If it weren't for him I don't know if Coby and I would be here right now! Thank the angels that sent this amazing creature into our lives. Never forget that your animals love you unconditionally and will risk their own lives for yours. Please kiss your puppies tonight and pray you don't need them to look after you like that but be thankful that they will.
Beyond the actual saving of my life he has been my rock through some hard times over the past 8 months. He is the joy that I get when I walk in the door. No matter what else is going on in my life he is always happy to see me. He is always happy to listen to me when sometimes it feels like the world doesn't care. He doesn't judge or make you feel worse about mistakes. He is just there to love and be loved.
JADE & REGGIE
I was suffering from severe depression and was deeply considering suicide. Then I saw a post for him online and I got him on impulse. I kept telling myself I had to stay alive for him, so he can have the life he deserves. He has been glued to my side ever since. Before him I always felt extremely lonely, but he makes sure I don't feel that way ever again. I'm still alive because of him.
Megan & Buddy
I don't have a crazy story about how my dog saved me from a bear on a hike and I don't suffer from any mental illness. Growing up, I was always the odd one out, an easy target. I was bullied and never really had a group of friends. In Jr. High I finally made some friends but it wasn't till later that I realized they weren't real friends. I spent A LOT of time alone. For an extrovert this is a very bad thing. My pup was always good at knowing when I had a bad day and he would always come sit with me. These days I came home feeling lost, unwanted and lonely. My self- confidence was also deteriorating. I knew that whoever didn't want me at school, or if my parents were angry with me, or my sister wouldn't speak to me I always had him in my corner. He wanted me and he needed me. Walking him everyday kept me sane and was the best therapy. On bad days, I would take off for over an hour and just walk with him. Once I got older and started driving, I took him to the park and would walk until he was exhausted and I wasn't lonely anymore and then go home and he would lay with me. Thanks to him, I knew I always had someone in my corner making sure I was alright. And that was everything. I think that if I didn't have him I would probably have a mental illness today.
I am thankful every day that I don't, it just makes life that much easier. I am beyond lucky now to have amazing people in my life, but I still have bad days and I still find myself reaching for him for comfort. I owe so much to him and am forever grateful.
CASSIE & COOPER
My boyfriend and I moved in together and, for a while, things looked up. I finished school and I had more time to myself and planned to do many things that I love. However, none of those plans materialized. I would come home from work and sit for hours in my car outside of the house, dreading to go inside. I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts and myself. I now had more time to lie in a dark room to dread the next day.
Finally, with some help, I got the courage to reach out to a doctor and he gave me a few options. I started seeing a therapist and she helped me realize that I needed to bring a dog back into my life. A dog would help give me purpose and knock down the walls of depression and anxiety that I have built.
We got Cooper from NASAP, a local rescue, and together we both have some issues that need to be solved. She can be distrusting of strangers and afraid of new things, much like myself, but we work through it together. I slowly push her to see that not all new things are bad and this in return, is what she gives me. Cooper is now my protector; she comes to bed with me until I fall asleep and wakes me up in the morning, if I choose that that day is unbearable. She waits and whines if I am alone for too long and reminds me that she is just on the other side of the door. My anxiety and depression have decreased so much because of her.
ANDREA & RUMOUR
Rumour saves my life every day. He gives me a reason to wake up in the morning. I struggle with depression, anxiety, and OCD, and sometimes getting through the day feels unmanageable. But with Rumour by my side, I feel like I can handle anything. I no longer have thoughts of suicide, because I know Rumour loves me unconditionally and needs me to take care of him. He calms my anxiety so that I am able to attend class and fully participate. When I am feeling really low or extremely anxious, he hugs me and comforts me. He also grounds me when I have intrusive or obsessive thoughts, and helps me come back to reality. Rumour has given me the ability to complete my graduate degree and live my life the way I want to, as opposed to just struggling to survive every day.
ALYSSA & POPPY
Poppy is technically my sisters dog but my sister works shift work so most of the time Poppy is with me. I struggle with anxiety and depression and poppy can sense when I'm having a bad day and when I'm sad. She will instantly climb on my lap so I can pet her until I'm feeling better. She can always make me happy.
Nikki & Savage
Hi Everyone, I love seeing all of the stories on this page and thought it was time to tell mine. A while ago I came to my mom's rescue. She was in a horrible relationship that caused her a great deal of physical and mental pain. As soon as I was adopted I was at my mom's side through it all, protecting her, being her shoulder to cry on and her rock. This caused not only my mom a great deal of pain and suffering but myself as well. I did not trust anyone but her and no one could get too close to us.
One day we said enough was enough. We left the situation but there was still work to be done, I needed to trust again. My mom took me to classes where at first I really didn’t want to be but after a few times I started to really like everyone and they liked me. I even got the honor roll! :) Looking back at the past when I thought our bond could not be stronger, I was wrong. Today my mom and I are more connected and stronger than ever before.
I tell my story today in hopes to help someone else that is going through the same type of thing, we know how hard it can be to tell people and to make the move for a brighter future. Be strong for yourself and for what the future holds, make the move, you're worth it.
Carlee & Stache & Nikko
I have Anxiety and my dogs really help with that. If it’s going with Mum for a drive, or a walk out on the lake, near the lake during summer, they are always up for keeping me company. When I separated from my ex-husband we were sharing our dogs, and during the times I didn’t have them I felt lost and a bit hopeless, but because I knew I’d see them again I always looked forward to getting them back. When my ex husband gave me full custody, that was the happiest day of my life. They get me up in the morning and give me the drive to keep doing what I need to do to provide a good life for all of us. My dogs everyday remind me that I can keep moving forward, and that I have a purpose. My job is mentally draining and when I come home from work, I know I’m coming home to pure love from my furbabies. They are my children and mean the world to me. If I did not have them, sometimes I’m not sure where I would even be. They are my reason and my life. My dogs are just more than dogs too me.
Kodie & Tonka
People see Tonka and all the stereotypes of pitbulls flash before their eyes, simply by the way he looks they expect him to live up to each of them. With a backwards hat, piercings and being covered in tattoos I experience the same looks and stereotype; tough guy. Yet some days due to anxiety I can’t even make it down an aisle at a grocery store, if I’m able to get there at all. Like me the big scary rescue dog happens to be the most delicate of little creatures; his list of crippling fears is the only thing longer than the list of health issues, allergies and trips to the vet we have had over the past 4 years.
Tonka’s challenges challenge me. The acceptance, understanding and patience I have learned to have with him have helped me to have them in myself as well. If a big tough pitbull can cripple in fear from an over filled water-bowl made out of something shiny; I can avoid buying eggs at the grocery store because the aisle has too many people and can now accept it’s just one of those days. Tonka gets me out of bed in the morning and through most days just knowing he will be there when I get home. Petting his fur and laying on him calms an anxiety attack, while looking at pictures and watching videos of him on my phone get me through them when I’m away.
Courtney & Zola
As most people know about me, I suffer from server depression and anxiety. And after I lost Snoopy, I went I to a very dark place. I almost tried to commit suicide because I didn't know why I was alive and he wasn't. I didn't know how I was supposed to keep going when my world had ended. He had been my best friend for 11 years through some of the worst years of my life. I honestly didn't know if I would ever get another dog again. Purely because I didn't know if I could love another dog again.
Well. That day came in August. I went to a HART (Humane Animal Rescue Team) event where I was hoping to see this puppy I was very drawn to, Heidi (her name at the time). When I laid eyes on her, I cried. And it was like she knew me too. She wouldn't leave my side. I knew Snoopy had sent me to her. She was what I needed in my life. A week later, she was home with me.
In the months that I've had her, she's made me want to be healthier, have more fun, and explore more things. But she has also saved me twice so far. I have come home with intent and a plan and then all she does is wag her tail and rub against me, then jump up to pull me down into a hug and I know I'm loved. I'm needed. I have lost the guilt of leaving people behind, which is a scary place to be. Because if I didn't have her, or never found her, I really don't think I would've stayed here. She is what is keeping me fighting. I need to be a better person for her because she deserves it. She gives me the reason I need to work harder and keep going. She's my light.
Adrienne & Lana & Cooter
I have Crohn's disease and anytime I have a flare up, he sits close and lets me pet him. It calms my emotions down. I was diagnosed with post partum depression after my daughter was born. It was a turning point in my life. I only saw darkness. I was diagnosed with Crohn's that same year. Slowly but surely, after we got Cooter, the darkness started to lift. Cooter and my girl have made my life much better. Anytime the Crohn's gets bad, Cooter sits close and lets me pet him. My girl, Lana and Cooter have a special bond. Both have helped me heal. Both have helped me smile again. My kids mean everything to me, including my special old dog.
Katherine & Angelo
April 27th, 2015 I was blessed to have my very own Angel fall into my care (didn't know it then, was just bewildered why I burst into tears the moment I laid eyes on him lol) He came into my life on the heels of a miscarriage, trapped in a 9 year long abusive relationship, tired and ready to give up he gave me a breath of life, a reason to keep going. Our bond was undeniable, from a baby he's never been far from my side. Not everyone liked this, but I just didn't care. He was mine, I needed him and he needed me. He has saved my life time and time again; at 6 months old he saved me in the middle of a very violent physical attack, fought to get my exes hands off my neck. I had my first inclination of just how special this pup was.
Fast forward to 2016, when finally getting the courage to leave, with support from my family I went back to get my Daughter, Son, and Fur Son. With the chaos that was ensuing that day trying to get my children away from the evil place. The way the chips fell I walked away with only my Daughter and pup. The only time he never tried to run.. my skinny sad pup slinked out of the house and straight to Me, his eyes begging please save me. I look back on pictures from that time and its so sad. He clearly wasn't fed for the 4 days I was away, skinny and tired. I can't imagine what my ex put him through the days I was gone.
A lot has happened in between the psychological control my ex had over me for so long had spread over to my daughter and I have been without my Baby girl for a year and a half. My son as of recent has become victim to the control and so sadly I have lost him too. Everyday is a struggle. Living with PTSD anxiety and depression is a hard way to live, but it's what my path is to be at the moment. Some days are good. Some days are a nightmare, but my Angelo… he never gives up on me. He's my reason to get up everyday.
Recently, we were playing and running in the house, laughing and barking. I somehow ended up on the kitchen floor playing with him and became overwhelmed. On my knees, tears streaming unstoppably I started begging God to give me my Children back, to please keep them safe during this time apart, and to please not let them forget their mothers love...my sweet Angel pup put himself into my arms and started licking the tears away as they fell. So much love in that moment, I couldn't help but smile and hug him tighter. Dogs are never just dogs… they are man's best friend for a reason. My sweet Guardian Angelo I am forever grateful to have you by my side.