Penny: My Biggest Supporter In This MS Fight
As a long time sufferer of multiple sclerosis, I have an assortment of items that aid me in my daily battles. These range from my trusty cane to fight falls, my notepad app to help with memory loss, my cooling vest for fighting the heat, to even an assortment of Mega Bloks that I use to keep my hands and brain working together better. However, there is perhaps no aid more important to me than my trusty sidekick, Penny, an eight-year-old smooth red Dachshund that joins me in my constant fight against MS. Together, we’re a dynamic duo out to show multiple sclerosis that it won’t stop us from living a great and fulfilling life!
Before I get to Penny, I must say that I have two other dogs, Murdock and Dexter. They’re both considerably larger and require a lot of walks and room to roam. I now live in a place without a fenced in yard and with my walking and fatigue issues, I am no longer able to keep them with me. They now live with my parents (and their three dogs) and have a massive fenced in yard that they just love. Letting them go live with their grandparents was the best thing for them but one of the hardest moments of my life and really something I felt MS stole from me. I still visit them whenever I can, though.
Not longer after my pups moved in with my parents, a family friend mentioned she had an older, smaller dog that she had to give up. My parents took her in as well, but after meeting her and giving it some thought, I said, “Let me try taking her”. A small Dachshund, with tiny legs and a big heart, that didn’t require the amount of activity and daily work that my larger boys required seemed like a perfect fit. I took her in as a trial and it’s now been a year and a half. I couldn’t imagine life without her!
Service dogs are amazing animals and do a tremendous amount of good for people suffering from a wide range of problems. People don’t always think of multiple sclerosis as being one of those diseases that a service dog can help, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, more and more MS patients are turning to specially trained service dogs to aid them. Balance dogs in particular are very helpful in aiding patients stay upright, get up from chairs, and even informing their owner that he/she is getting tired and letting them know they need to rest.
Though not a trained service dog, Penny has still been extremely helpful to me. Being on disability means I spend some long stretches home alone (well, at least until she arrived). Having her companionship throughout the day has made what was fast becoming an unbearable life into one that is now filled with happiness. I know it will seem crazy to some people. How can a dog make things so much better? Well, if you think it’s crazy, just try it out. MS can be filled with many times of loneliness; having a dog around can really help with that.
Caring for Penny has also helped bring my life some needed structure and motivation. I have some bad days, some days I’m in awful pain, some I’m super fatigued. At those times, it seems easier to just stay in bed all day. Having to get up, take her outside and then feed her is great motivation to get out of bed and give life a try. It’s a lot harder to wallow in your own discomfort if you have someone else depending on you. Having that is exceptionally important to someone in my condition. Even on really rough days, when I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything, I remember that I’ve helped take care of her. I’ve done something, I’ve contributed to something. That’s super important when you’ve lost your ability to work.
Penny has had experience with her previous owner being sick, and from what I hear, she was just as valuable to them. She can tell when I’m having a bad day, sometime even before I realize it. There is a marked difference in her demeanor and how she acts when things aren’t going right for me. As she did with her previous owner, when I’m having a rough day and just can’t get out of bed, she’ll happily come in and snuggle next to me or even just sit next to me and watch over me. She will also come and stand by my side when I fall. That’s an incredibly comforting and helpful act for me. It’s very easy to get discouraged and upset when MS takes a swipe at you and the love and reassurance she provides by just being there for me is incredible. Depression is a massive problem for those suffering from MS, and though I still have some bad days now and then, she really does a lot to help me keep that at bay.
While it may not seem like much, having this little dog around has dramatically changed my life for the better. When I look at my life battling MS without her, I can’t help but wonder how I did it. If my fight against MS were a boxing match, she’d be my cornerman, lending me encouragement throughout the fight. Penny is most definitely the Mickey to my Rocky and together we’re beating multiple sclerosis one round at a time!