My Cocker Spaniel, Joey, Is My MS Pal

My Cocker Spaniel, Joey, Is My MS Pal

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking strange thoughts about your MS and your dog? I did the other night.

I’ve written about Joey, my cocker spaniel, a couple of times. For example, there was a column about the adventure of taking him for a walk using my scooter. Joey is my pal, my companion, and my stress reliever, and last night, I was thinking about how much we have in common.

We’re both old, and we share August birthdays. Joey will be 14 next month (84 in people years), while I’ll be 72.

We both love to eat, but we’re picky about the menu. Ice cream is our favorite.

We both love napping.

Joey has a leash, and some think that I should have one, but our barks are worse than our bites.

Ed and Joey enjoy the view. (Photo by Laura Tobias)

As he’s gotten older, Joey has been having a hard time jumping onto the bed. I’ve been having a hard time getting out of it.

We both have a bunch of medications. I take about half a dozen different meds for my MS. Joey takes about the same for his heart and skin problems. Joey’s medications include a diuretic, and that gives us something else in common:

We both pee a lot!

Some people with MS have a service dog trained to handle tasks such as opening and closing doors, getting the phone, calling for help, pulling off clothes, and pressing buttons. Joey is not a service dog because he doesn’t have specialized training. But he does qualify as an assistance dog because of the stress relief that he provides. It really doesn’t matter to me what training he’s had or what title he carries — he carries me every day. I like to think that I carry him a little, too.

Fellow MS News Today columnist Jennifer Powell feels the same way about her golden retriever, Abby. “My most treasured moments are spent lying on the lawn with Abby, her paw resting on my hand, the late afternoon sun flickering on her golden fur,” Powell writes. “I lie back and let my mind soften; my worries seemingly vanish, and for that moment in time, I am calm. … She embodies joy and happiness and one cannot help but feel the same when around her.”

That’s what dogs are all about. Sometimes cats, too, but that’s a story for another day.

I’ll bet many of you have a dog or a cat and feel the same way. I’d like to hear about you and your pal in the comments below.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.
Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.

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  1. Ellen says:

    I love and appreciate your story. I had cocker spaniels years ago in my younger years and loved them. my last dog was a yellow Lab and was so wonderful. I didn’t know I had MS until I was 57 and my dog, Vera, was still with us. I am fortunate that I have not had MS sx that impaired my life so far. I am now 72. Vera passed away 4 years ago and I miss her dearly. I became her caretaker as the last two years of her life she was unable to use her back legs.
    Dogs are such wonderful companions and I think about it all the time, should I get another dog? It would certainly help me to go walking which I am not doing much these days (not b/c of MS but b/c of lack of motivation) On the other hand it is a lot of work bringing up a new dog not to mention the cost of vets these days.Best wishes to you!! Stay safe.

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Ellen,

      Thanks for taking the time to drop a note. Joey is our second cocker. Before him we had Smokey who, unfortunately, only lived to be 8. Any dog is a lot of work (and expense) and cockers certainly can have minds of their own.

      I know how much you must miss Vera. When Joey finally leaves us, however, I think his replacement will be a cat…though Joey will really be irreplaceable.


    • Ellen, I agree with you. I have a 12 yr old Pug and an aged cat too. We get along great, all slow. If something happens to make me lose either, I will adopt another but elderly dog or cat. Probably less activity and work.

  2. Gary Pardue says:

    I have a friend as well, a beagle named Archie. When we got him I gave my daughter the honor of naming him. She chose Archie. I told her that I didn’t know if that name would work since the most famous football player from Mississippi was Archie Manning(an Ole Miss Graduate) and both my wife and I are graduates of Mississippi State University. My daughter was a freshman there at the time. She said she didn’t care, he looks like an Archie to me! I love having him around. He doesn’t bother anything, will come and lay on the porch while I sit in a rocking chair. We live in the country and he’s the vicious guard dog of our place. As I like to say, he won’t bother you unless you have something to give him like a treat.

      • Mary D says:

        Our Ella, a 12 yr old cavalier King Charles spaniel, was half human. She knew the limitations I faced from my MS; she would bring her tennis ball right to my feet for throwing, but would not do that for anyone else in our family. She knew to stay out from under my feet and she rode like a princess in the back of my adult, electric assist tricycle. We said goodbye to her on March 7, on our bed with her head on her pillow. There will never be another
        spaniel like Ella.

        • Ed Tobias says:


          I’m so sorry that you said goodby to Ella but next to you on your bed was the best place for you and for her. It’s obvious she was a family member and that’s how it should be.

          Half human? I’d guess she was a greater percentage than that.

          Thanks for sharing,


        • Christine says:

          I lost my best buddy ever last week, my Max, a Cavalier King Charles tricolor. He was my constant companion, seemed o sense when I was felling low and needed a friend. He was a fetching maniac, but refused to bring the toy back to where I could easily grab it.always a canes length away. I always thought it was his way of getting me to move more. I miss him terribly. Cavs are the best.

          • Ed Tobias says:

            So sorry to hear about Max, Christine. These guys really sense what’s going on with each of us. All of the Spaniel breeds are great. I hope you have another pal in your life soon.


  3. I had a French bulldog, which I lost to cancer. She was eleven years old. I really miss her. A year later I decided to get another dog, as they are so loving. My new dog Piper is quite different but has lead to many hugs and kisses. I know they are a like a child to care for , but I would not trade her for anything. Thank you for your story I so enjoy reading them.

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Arloa,

      I’m glad you enjoyed my story and I enjoyed reading yours. I’m really glad it had a happy ending with the arrival of Piper. There are, indeed, similarities between children and dogs. Both especially know how to get what they want.


  4. Cyndi says:

    So enjoyed your heartfelt story of your compnioinship pal Joey — and may you both enjoy many more days together. A word of support for the cat lovers out there! Pumpkin, alledgedly a cat, is more often dog than cat. She comes when called (which is infrequent because she is by my side 80% of the day), is my constant campanion, empathetic in sensing I’m having a tough day, and is as reliable as a Ring system to alert me to somone at the front door. Okay… she’s not so great at playing fetch but neither does she require multiple daily outings rain or shine, blistering sun or freezing temps. Wouldn’t trade her for the world.

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Cindy,

      Thanks for telling us about Pumpkin. We had a cat like that years ago. His name was Bulldog and he DID fetch (little wads of paper). Our most recent cat, a bermin named TJ, passed away last October a little before his 18th birthday. My wife has already made plans for another cat…a Maine Coon. Now I’ll really have no room left in the bed.


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