Why My Dogs Are the Best Medicine for My Illnesses
I have been living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, endometriosis and multiple comorbid conditions for many years. Over the years I’ve figured out what works for my chronic illnesses and what doesn’t. It’s definitely an ongoing trial and error process. The one thing I’ve learned is that the best treatment and “medicine” to help with the pain, whether it be physical or emotional, is by far the support of my dogs. I’ve been a lifelong dog lover and a pit bull advocate for over 15 years. I worked as a vet tech all my working life, before my EDS decided that working was too much for me. I think in some ways my dogs know I’ve helped them (they are both rescue dogs) so in return, they help me. Here are some of the ways I’ve found my dogs to be better than any pill I could take.
1. Constant friendship. As a chronically ill person, it can be hard to make friends. Even harder to keep friends. People get tired of coming around. I suppose they tire of hearing about the constant pain and doctor appointments. That’s where my dogs come in — they never tire of me complaining or being sick. They’re happy when I’m happy and when I’m sad they provide comfort like no one else can.
2. A literal pick-me-up. My personal dogs have been trained to do assistance work for me. My dog Rocco is my service dog who helps me by retrieving dropped items, helping with the laundry, getting things off the floor, getting assistance for me if I’m in trouble and alerting to changes in my condition (to name a few of his tasks). His sister Leila also helps provide emotional support and can also retrieve items for me. It’s a huge relief being able to be home alone or out alone knowing I can get something if I drop it on the floor or if it is out of reach because my dogs are there to help me.
3. I can never OD on puppy love. While my meds may not be safe to take in unlimited quantities, the love my dogs freely give is unlimited and helps me more than any drug any doctor has ever given me. No awful side effects from puppy love — just pure love!
4. I can learn from my dogs. I learned how to still enjoy life, even with pain and illness, from my Elderbull, Sadie. Sadie was almost 13 and had cancer and arthritis. She still played and enjoyed life up until her final days. Sadie taught me to still get out and enjoy the things you love, despite your pain.
5. Dogs don’t try to give you medical advice. They just enjoy your company. Unlike friends, family or even some strangers who ask, “Have you tried….?” dogs don’t try to give you any advice when you hang out. They’re just happy to be with you and have your attention.
6. The kids I never had. While some people don’t get it, to me my dogs are my kids. Because of my endometriosis and multiple surgeries, I’ll never have human kids. But to me, my dogs are the closest thing there is. They do everything with my husband and I. We celebrate birthdays and holidays. We travel with them. Knowing I have my fur kids as part of my family keeps me going.
7. Built-in physical therapy. My dogs encourage me to keep moving. Even though my EDS causes me a lot of pain and most days I am homebound, my dogs still need exercise. Whether it’s a walk or a swim in the Gulf, I always try to make sure my dogs get their exercise. I know it’s good for them and in turn, it’s good for me, too. Not just physically, but mentally. My illness has taken a lot away from me and I know it’s breaking my body down. Some days it would just be easier to lay in bed and not do anything. If it weren’t for my dogs, that’s where I’d stay. I really credit them for keeping me going and keeping me active. 8. No judgment. No makeup? Haven’t had the energy to take a shower? Dogs don’t mind. Even if I’m not in the best mood and don’t want to be around anyone, my sweet Rocco and Leila don’t mind. They don’t judge my looks and bad mood like most people would. They stay by my side no matter if I’m looking my best and in the happiest of moods or feeling awful and cranky from pain. My dogs have never asked, “When are you going to get better?” or compared me to others. They see me for me and I love them for that.
I may be on many medications and have seen many different doctors over the years for my chronic illnesses. But the one thing no doctor can ever give me is my favorite and best medicine: the love and support of my dogs. I know I will never get better with my chronic illnesses. On some days that has weighed heavily on my mind. My dogs have gotten me through my worst days better than any medications, doctors or treatments ever could. I hope others who share in the struggles of chronic illness are able to enjoy what I think is my “best medicine” — the love of a dog!
To learn more about EDS, please watch my video.
To learn more about how my EDS affects me and learn how you can help with my upcoming out-of-state surgeries, visit www.youcaring.com/HelpValerieFightEDS.
Follow this journey on Rocco’s Facebook page.