How Paw-fect Pets Improve Life With Chronic Illness

Living with pets has many benefits for columnist Beth Shorthouse-Ullah

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by Beth Ullah |

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Having grown up in the countryside, I’ve been around animals my entire life. We always had dogs and cats, and I learned how to ride horses. It was tranquil and storybook.

When I left home to take a trip or attend university, I experienced a void only the animals in my life could fill. If you’ve ever had pets, you know they’re part of the family.

One thing I looked forward to about leaving university was finally being able to welcome a new furry family member home with my husband. But as life transpired, we found ourselves in rented accommodations in London, which meant we had to wait awhile longer.

Four years later, a year before my relapsing-remitting MS descended, we moved back to my homeland of Wales and were able to finally bring our lovely new cats into our home.

The void was filled. I’d very much missed the company pets provided.

This became especially true when I experienced a paralyzing relapse the following year and became isolated in our house. The company made all the difference to my mental health.

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Welcoming home a dog

As I slowly began to recover from the relapse, we finally got the go-ahead from our landlord to get a dog. That’s when Ivy entered our lives.

We decided to rescue from a local kennel, and the process was unique in that they didn’t let prospective owners into the kennels to ensure the dogs remained as calm as possible, which I liked. They asked us some questions about our lifestyle and what we were looking for to match us with the right personality.

benefits of pets | Multiple Sclerosis News Today | Beth lies on the couch with her black Staffordshire terrier, Ivy.

Beth and Ivy sit on the sofa with a blanket. (Courtesy of Beth Shorthouse-Ullah)

We were told about a beautiful Staffordshire terrier crossbreed who had been found as a stray, then named Vectra. She was one of the kennel’s longest residents at the time, and that tugged on my heartstrings. I was surprised by how intuitive and supportive she was — more supportive on the lead, in fact, than my walking stick. Walking her was one of my concerns, as I was unable to walk a dog alone, but my husband assured me he could manage that side of it.

As a Staffy cross, her strength made me hesitate due to my balance and walking issues, but in the time we’ve had her, Ivy has only used her strength to protect me. A dog’s intuition is incredible. There’s a reason Staffies are called nanny dogs, and she embodies that.

There’s a noticeable difference between how she behaves with me and with my husband, Dave. She’s very rough-and-tumble with Dave, and she’s so gentle with me. Perhaps the best example is when we feed her. With Dave, she sprints full pelt into the kitchen, doing triple midair spins. With me, she’ll follow me through the door and wait until I’ve stabilized myself after picking up her bowl to do her excited spins.

Ivy’s constant love, loyalty, and protective intuition never fail to surprise me. Once, she and Dave were playing tug of war roughly and having a blast. Suddenly, Ivy dropped her toy and walked over to my brother-in-law, who has Type 1 diabetes, and nuzzled him. His blood sugars had dropped drastically within a few seconds, and she sensed it instantly.

Since I got my mobility scooter, I’ve been able to start training her to walk on the lead with me, so I can go out with her on my own. This has greatly improved my independence.

Ivy and the cats truly make our house a home.


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

michael j platusic avatar

michael j platusic

I HAVE PROGRESSIVE M,S, WAS DIAGNOSED ABOUT 5 YEARS AGO, HAVE ALOT OF BAD DAYS BUT ALSO HAVE GOOD DAYS, IT IS UPSETTING THAT MY WALKING IS STILL A ISSUE, WALKING IS TOUGH BUT STILL NOT IN A WHEEL CHAIR, THEY KEEP TRYING DIFFERENT KINDS OF MEDS SO FAR LITTLE HELP, HOPING ONE DAY THEY FIND A CURE, I AM 61 YEARS OLD MY WIFE IS 51 WE BEEN MARRIED FOR 29 YEARS, AND SHE KEEPS GOING ON WITH ME, SHE DID NOT DESEREVE THIS. BUT SHE DEA;S WITH MY HARDER DAYS,I AM OH TYSABRI AND THE GOOD THING IS NO MORE NEW LEISONS IN OVER A YEAR, WITH SUPPORT OF MY WIFE I KEEP ON GOING ON MI KE

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MADELINE l NEWTON avatar

MADELINE l NEWTON

i agree with you about the pets no matter who or what they are they can feel us with what ever is going on in our bodies...it is so weird but so great and safe for us...we use to have malumut ,smoyen and wolf type dogs ...sorry about the spelling but i figure you will get the picture of the dogs...but what a great bunch of dogs and they all took such great care of me ...when we had all five of them i was on shots and they would remind me when it was time to eat and when it was time to do the shots ...i could walk all of them at the same time and if i got tired the biggest one which was the mom of most when lean into me to support me ...they were the most wonderful dogs...they lived to a very long life of 17 and 18 years ...now we have a yorkshire/terrier mix and he is just great also...we go for short walks and he knows when i am to tired or just feeling lazy and will make me go to get up and do it but also when i am to tired won't push me to go ..we both love our walks but they is a time and place to do it ...love having pets since i was a child but never ever would of thought they would be such a help when i got older and having MS ...life savory ....love them all...take care and enjoy them and they will be with you thru all of it ....and still love you...no judging ....

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