Woof, Meow, Tweet…theBenefits of Having Pets in Our MS Life
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Dog, cat, chinchilla, hamster, ferret, fish, bearded dragon, parakeet, pig, monkey – whatever your choice, pets really make us feel good, better even, as we live with chronic illness and disability. Not only can they provide physical assistance, they also warm our hearts and make living with MS a bit easier.

HansI am reminded of this as the winter temperatures drop and my cat, Hans, now cuddles more. (Yes, even in California, it gets cold. It dropped to the high 30’s the other night, which is cold for us, really, really cold. Brrrr!). There is nothing better than a good snuggle with Hans to warm me up. On the days I do not feel well, Hans just seems to pick up on this and cuddles with me even more, even closer. How wonderful this is as he distracts me from the pain I feel, the burning in my legs, the extreme fatigue I battle.

And, there is more to it than just the snuggles. Having pets in our lives has a wide range of benefits. They help us cope, lift us from feelings of loneliness and depression and get us outside for a bit of sunshine and exercise.

Top 7 benefits of having pets in our MS life:

1. Pets keep us company. Living with a companion animal can help ease feelings of isolation. Having a buddy by your side can make such a big difference in minimizing the feelings of loneliness. Even if the conversation is only one way…

2. Pets can help us fight depression. Taking care of pets (walking them, grooming them, petting them, playing with them) takes you out of yourself and helps you feel better. Our pets’ love is unconditional so, good day or bad, they have a lot to give us. Well, that is unless your name is Hans who, when he doesn’t get the treats he persistently begs for in the morning, may not be spreading the love quite as far.

3. Pets give us a sense of support and pleasure. Our life with MS should focus more on the good parts, not the un-fun stuff, right? Having pets makes us feel good. They’re cute and they’re sweet and they’re funny and they’re snuggly. All good stuff that makes living with MS a bit more bearable.

4. Pets get us outside when we might not otherwise. When we walk Spot, we sometimes meet others along the way, stopping for conversation, watching dogs do the funny things they do. It’s a great social outlet. Plus, there’s the added benefit of soaking some of that sun vitamin!

5. Pets calm us and relieve our anxiety. This is a big one for me as I am slightly neurotic. Hans is chill so he keeps me chill, not an easy feat. Om.

6. Pets help minimize stress levels – this is huge for us, as stress is often the culprit when our symptoms flare up.

7. Pets help us improve our physical fitness. After all, exercise is important for MSers and, taking your dog for short walks or tossing their favorite toy in the backyard, helps keep us moving. This includes basic stretching. I can’t tell you how many times Hans watches us at home, with keen interest and curiosity, as we stretch or do some yoga. Eventually, he gets right on the floor with us to do a bit of stretching himself. Kitty Yoga. Hilarious!

Our animals really enhance our lives, don’t they? And, they help us a lot during difficult times, during those painful moments with MS. Nudging their wet noses against us for a pet or cuddling with us after an injection or keeping us company while we hang out in bed battling fatigue. These pet moments make MS matter less and make life with MS a little bit easier.

How about you? Tell us about your pet and how your life is better because of your pet. I’m sure you have a story you’d love to share and we’d love to hear about the healing power of your pets.

Take care,

Christie

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28 comments on “Woof, Meow, Tweet…theBenefits of Having Pets in Our MS Life

  1. Liberty says:

    Love this essay! I have the best dog in the world (and you might, too). I also have horses and even though they are a LOT of work, I get some of my best therapy from them. After I was diagnosed, my animals kept me sane on the darkest days. They don’t pity me or talk down or say they “know”.
    They need me and I need them. They give me exercise and fresh air and with the help of my husband and a dear friend, they give me a sense of adventure and wonder that I thought I was sure to lose. To paraphrase a quote : There is something about the outside of a pet that’s good for the inside of a person.

  2. Steven says:

    My cat has helped me since I moved into my condo. he always keeps me entertained when he talks to me, even though I have no idea what the hell he is saying. He also makes me laugh when he comes in from the garage and goes to the corner of the living room and sits there and looks up and starts talking to a ghost or something. He also keeps me on my toes to remember to keep his food and water bowls filled, and lets ,me know when I forget.

    Whenever I go into the kitchen, he tags right along with me and just stares at me with his sad little eyes, until I say “do you want some snacks”, then he just starts talking like crazy. My girlfriend says he doesn’t speak English, and I ask him “is the sky blue, or is the grass green?”, and he just stares at me. Then when I say “do you want some snacks”, he goes crazy and just starts talking up a storm.

    When I am lonely at night and watching TV on the couch, he senses that and either lays on the floor, with his head on my feet, or at times he will jump up on the couch and lay his head on my lap, purring with content.

    When I lay down to go to sleep, he always jumps up on the bed and either lays in the crook of my knee, or at times just lays on the other side of the bed and makes bisquits with his paws on the comforter. This gives me a sense of having someone depending on me, even though he is my little furry four legged friend.

  3. Samantha2011 says:

    I don’t know many people who have MS here in the high desert of California and the heat is brutal and makes me hurt even worse than anything and my Father seems to not care if its hurting me or not he keeps the house hot but when it comes to my baby Samantha who is a 5 year old boxer she will cuddle and make me feel better not to mention she and I don’t fit well in a twin so she takes most of the bed and I’m left with almost nothing but the floor which some days wouldn’t be so bad due to the bed hurts my back.

    Pets help us feel better and help us keep going and to fight. I know I have wanted to give up and then I stop and think of my Samantha, who would love her as I do and the answer is no one would so I keep fighting no matter how much I hurt but her cuddles are mommy and baby time for us and she loves to run in the desert with our 4 other dogs ( father and stepmothers dogs ) so when I can go out with them to let them run I take her and let her run. She stays close and she never lets me out of her sight.

    Samantha has learned my alarms for my pain meds and wakes me most times to remind me to take them, because I forget and just shut off the alarm.

    She does silly things to make me laugh and smile which I find every day it gets harder and harder to do after 4 years of fighting and the last year and a half has been the worse for me being here with no help with the Issues.

  4. itasara says:

    I had four wonderful cats and best Labrador Retriever EVER! One cat is now with my son and in another state and she is 20 years old and 2 months old. She (as well as two of my other cats had) have chronic kidney disease, a sign of aging. All the others have passed, one from unknown reason several years ago and the others from Old age in the past two years. I miss them terribly and I would get such happiness from a pet, but at this time in my life I just cannot handle a new pet. Maybe at some point, but as I get older it becomes more difficult to keep up with a pet (especially since I haven’t kept my house,) and the vet expenses have become pretty high these days should the animal need medical attention. Also although I am not much of a traveler, having a pet is restrictive, and I never boarded any of my pets when I did go away but had friends who would watch them for me. It is sad, but that is the reality at this point.

  5. Candy says:

    We rescued a Shih Tzu that was from a puppy mill. She was 4 years old, had a birth defect called a swimmers leg. Her rear leg has no joints, yet she knows no difference and is full of life. We bonded immediately! Within 6 months she was house broke for the first time in her life, learned what a kind touch was and never left my side. She’s now a Certified Medical Service dog! She knows when I’m going to have a seizure and let’s me know. Ariel is my best friend and almost constant companion. I taught her to trust and she reminded me how to live again. We both received the gift of a second chance at life.

  6. Sasha says:

    I am doing so much better now that I have Dennis constantly at my side. He even has his own Facebook Page now… Dennis The Service Dog. Please stop by and comment, share, post and add a story about your Special Pet!

  7. Judy says:

    Yes I have 3 beautiful little ones, they are a 16 year old shih-poo, a 9 year old jack Russell and a Siberian Husky who just turned 1.They are all really great, actually I like them better than some people. They always love you no matter what time you get home, what time you feed them and always want you to let you pet them. They understand when you are not feeling well, their eyes let you know they have compassion.Love is what they give. They are great company for you. They will also protect you with all they have, sometimes they will even talk to you.I have always had pets in my life. Since I could not have children, they are my children. I love them with all of my heart and soul.

  8. Lowdramamama says:

    Yes – pets are so good for me for SO MANY reasons! Over the years we always had at least a couple of house cats and a dog or two as my 3 sons were growing up…along w/ a couple of birds, guinea pigs, hamsters, an iguana, fish, a small snake, turtles, frogs, and of course the inevitable “pet” tarantula we found on our patio.

    18 months ago I had to have my best 4-legged friend put to sleep. He was a rescue Mastiff & had congenital hip dysplasia. His pain had become constant & he couldn’t even stand up on his own at 4 years old.

    Because we were suddenly dog-less AND recent empty nesters my husband and I thought, “Gee, we can finally have a pretty back yard and not have to worry about dog sitters when we’re gone!” Our 2 cats are very self sufficient.

    God obviously had other plans for us. My oldest son (now 30) bought 2 American Staffordshire PUPPIES from a well known breeder he knew – much to my disgust as I know how many dogs need homes at the SPCA… He got engaged and moved back home (EEK!) to save some $$ before the wedding which was still 6 months away. We had never had a puppy, didn’t want a puppy – and suckers that we are, ended up with 2 puppies, a male and female.

    During the season of all the poop, pee & chewed up items – I realized that IF FOR NO OTHER REASON – these little terrorists were in my life for a reason: 1). I HAD to get up in the mornings to let them out. 2). I had to stay awake to let them back in. 3). I couldn’t rest for too long – because QUIET in my house meant mayhem somewhere… 4). They gave me a sense of purpose. 5). They brought in laughter!

    And in the end: We’re the proud owners of the female puppy, Leah. Probably the most spoiled dog ever. OH – and we recently added a 12 month old mutt to our family that my middle son “rescued” in Phoenix, AZ. His name is Micah. 2 dogs that are really more like precocious toddlers and best friends – living in what must be doggy heaven.

  9. Christie Germans author says:

    Cheers everyone! And, cheers to our pets for making our lives with Multiple Sclerosis a bit better. Hope you’re all doing well. Best, Christie

  10. Candy says:

    What a sweet and wonderful story. They do keep us busy. 🙂

  11. Samantha2011 says:

    got to love the puppy stage NOT lol but you had the kids back with children that you could spoil and now more children. Isn’t it great

  12. Jacquie says:

    I have two dogs, 3 cats, and a crab lol They definatly keep me on my toes along with my 3 kids. I would be lost without all of them. My kids needs keep me going even when I want to stay in bed.

  13. Courtney says:

    Your right on that one Christie. I have 2 dogs and 3 cats and when I am not feeling good, one of my dogs will literally lay on me and calm me down. She is my heart, but I am trying, still, to get her trained to be a service dog, but I am striking out every which way I turn. My MS doesn’t affect me all the time, just when it wants to. My puppy, well 3yr old puppy, lol, keeps me calm and so does one of my cats. I don’t know what I would do without them.

  14. Samantha2011 says:

    try going for the CGC first which is your basic training. look it up.

    then try Therapy dog. I’m going to have my Samantha test for Therapy dog because she is so calm, loving, not to mention she is loving to all lol including cats,birds, horses, cows, any thing.

    My Samantha is ESA and CGC going for therapy.

  15. ShootingStar says:

    In 2010, I had two major relapses within 5 months and was basically confined to the basement. Scrabbles my Uromastyx lizard was great company, giving me someone to talk to and a reason to heave myself up the stairs once a day to get each of us some food. Lizards aren’t very cuddly, but even non-furry pets make great companions.

  16. Neva says:

    I agree with you about pets. I have three little gerbils. Watching their antics, while I am sitting in my recliner, just makes me feel happy and always makes me smile!

  17. Josh says:

    I am sorry, but I must disagree. The animal that has come to live in our house is a pain. I abide merely because my daughter likes it.

  18. Samantha2011 says:

    you have never found that one that steals your heart. dogs are great for those that need to move like us. You never want something hyper when you need a lot of help but large dogs like Boxers, Springer mix, german short hair mix( lol ) Even Great dane’s extra large dogs are great

  19. north-star says:

    We recently lost our elderly dog. Every dog is different, and what he brought to my life was his “in the moment” take on life. He was as mindful as a Zen monk. He also had a big, big heart.

    People made him happy, at a party he’d hang out on his pad watching the interplay of conversation. Sometimes he’d come over to me and press his head against my leg, as though he was overcome with joy. It made me happy that he wanted to share his emotion with me.

    He inspired me to take life at the moment, no more, no less– and no projecting what might happen. Lessons I needed: to take pleasure when life is good; to stop dreading the future with MS.

    Someday soon, another dog will choose us, happiness will return to bless our lives again.

  20. Christie Germans author says:

    Great to hear about your dog, what a sweetie! It sure sounds like he lifted your heart in many ways. Thanks so much for sharing. Take care! Christie

  21. itasara says:

    I couldn’t agree more. right now, however, my yellow lab is toward the end of her life and it is zapping all my energy. But she has been such a wonderful dog that I cannot abandon her quite yet. she isn’t sick, just lost her ability to walk on her rear legs, and over the past 1 ½ years she has become weaker and I do have to use a two handled harness ( a life saver!) to get her out to pee and poop and it is not easy. I also have two senior cats are are good company but they to have senior problems requiring expensive food and medications. I haven’t been able to travel with husband or leave the house for very long. So I know I will miss them all when they are gone, but I am getting older too and it’s just too much for me to bring up another animal and if I am still okay to go thru their senior years..I guess my point is that the love and companionship of a dog or cat or other animal that fits your lifestyle and personality is wonderful, but it is expensive more now than ever and a committment that must be decided on before making the decision to have an animal.

  22. Gale L says:

    Christie,

    This is absolutely so true! My cat, Moxie, is protective of me, or so it seems. Maybe that’s only to be sure she keeps getting treats and lots of fuzzy petting! Okay, no, it’s not like that, but she does seem to know when things aren’t as right as they could be, so she’ll lavish extra attention on me.

    So, yeah, I’m so happy that I have a cat — or that she has me? 😀 BTW, I’m not really a cat lady, as I love all animals, from mice to Saint Bernards, but walking the larger ones outside is too much of a problem for me!

    Gale.

  23. Christie Germans author says:

    Hi Gale. Great to hear Moxie takes such great care of you! 🙂 Our animals makes such a difference, from the very smallest to the largest. Take care!

  24. Samantha2011 says:

    itasara try Fostering a Senor dog or cat they all need and give love and you will be helping yourself, them, the shelter, and another dog who needs the space

  25. Curious1 says:

    Love this article! And it’s so true. What I’ve noticed is that on the days I’m not feeling well due to one issue or another and need to be a couch potato, my faithful loving dog Lucky lays on the floor next to me. When I need to get up, she moves out of my way & follows me. If I’m in the bathroom, she sits outside the door. Back to the couch, I settle in & so does she. I just love my Lucky dog!

  26. Christie Germans author says:

    So funny how our pets sense when we are not feeling that great and need a little extra TLC, right? I just love it. Take care, Christie

  27. Kim Dolce moderator says:

    Christie,

    I don’t have a pet and you made me want to mosey on down to the Humane Society to adopt my own little love muffin 🙂

    Kim

  28. Christie Germans author says:

    Hey Kim. The Humane Society is a great place to visit and adopt a sweet, sweet dog or cat. I think you’ll like snuggling up with one! Hope you’re well!

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