Ferdinand the dog poses for his portrait while his heart shaped harness has a cape blowing behind him.

Ferdinand, My Greatest MS Hero

This past week, I came home from my monthly infusion of Tysabri to find something strange: a tooth. I was a bit perplexed at first before I realized it belonged to my dog, Ferdinand. I panicked slightly before figuring out that he seemed to be fine and had no other issues. No other new issues that is. You see, Ferdinand hasn’t had an easy life. That hasn’t stopped him though, and he has become my greatest source of inspiration as I fight my daily battles against MS.

My pets have brought me a sense of purpose

It seems I’m good for an article about dogs every few years now. Previously, I discussed my faithful pup, Penny, and how she was my biggest supporter. Some years after that, I first introduced readers to Ferdinand and extolled the benefits of senior pets. I’ve been classified as disabled for some years now, spending much of my time home alone (I’ve been doing this way before the pandemic made it more commonplace). Alone, that is, except for my constant companion, my pup. Having a dog with me at this stage of my life has been invaluable. Not only helping me feel less alone, but giving me a reason to wake up each day. If I didn’t have to feed him, get him out, or take care of his needs, I’m not sure what would happen to me. His care has given me a small, but crucial, sense of purpose.

My senior dog's past life

As I mentioned, Ferdinand (sometimes just called “Ferd”) did not have a good life before me. He was rescued from horrible conditions, with badly abscessed teeth, malnourished, and with bites taken out of his ears. Already a senior when I got him, I shudder to think of what he has dealt with for much of his life. He is blind in one eye, he has only two teeth (well, now only one), and he has exposed areas to his sinuses on the top of his mouth (he had to have many surgeries in his mouth once rescued). The problems with his mouth even necessitate that he is spoon-fed, otherwise, he can’t eat. He is extremely distrustful of small children, likely because of previous abuse at their hands. Saying that Ferdinand has been through a lot, is putting it mildly.

A source of inspiration

Despite all he’s been through and goes through (last year, he had to have surgery to remove a tumor; this recent tooth loss makes it even harder for him to eat), he keeps going. He still finds tremendous joy in his life, too. I can’t help but always feel inspired by him - the way he takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. It reminds me so much of my own life, getting MS at a young age and then everything I’ve been through since.

Ferd is my biggest role model

That’s one reason I had to adopt him, because I saw a lot of myself in this dog, as well as a lot of who I wanted to be. It will seem funny to some, but this dog, who's been through hell and back but still keeps going, is my greatest hero, my biggest role model. When I feel like giving up, I look to him. I see what he’s been through and how he keeps going. Despite everything that’s happened to him in life, he still smiles and wags his tail. Yes, I know he’s only a dog, but I can’t help but be moved by it.

He keeps me going when I feel like giving up

If you’d told me 20-some years ago, when I was diagnosed with MS, that in the far future, I’d most relate to an old dog, I’d have been confused. I’m not one to write a lot of inspirational/overly positive stories, but Ferd’s is one that keeps me going. Not the celebrity with MS (who has access to all the latest treatments), or the person who ran a marathon with MS (but has a mild course), or any of the normal human interest stories that people prop themselves up on. For me, it’s all about my kick@ss little dog who’s been through so much and just keeps on going.

Thanks for indulging me with this one, folks.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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