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How My Dogs Have Helped Me Cope With Lupus

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Humans have owned dogs for thousands of years to help with farm work, personal protection, police work and purposes pertaining to companionship. Dogs follow their instincts and often want to please their humans.

My first dog after college is still around, and she helped me through the excruciating times lupus has dragged me through. She is a 55-pound Boxer, Shar-Pei, Pit Bull mix my husband and I rescued at 8 weeks old from the humane society. She put her paws on the window and stared at me, and from that moment on we have never been apart. Daphne is incredibly loyal, smart, stubborn and my healing dog. She does the silliest things and has such a human-like personality.

Six months after rescuing her, we adopted another companion named Sojourn, an Alaskan Malamute. He was 1 year old and being passed from home to home. He took care of Daphne and protected her as she wandered around the yard from other rambunctious dogs. Both of them have pushed me through the days I did not want to get out of bed and napped with me on the couch when I truly could not move. They have listened to my struggles and licked away my tears when I look and smell like a hot mess. They are always by my side and ease my pain, which is all I could ever ask of someone.

They are both a little older now, seven years to be exact. Sojourn has type 1 diabetes and is undergoing medical tests for other underlying conditions. He struggles with nerve pain and weakness on a daily basis. I take him to the vet and make sure we are on top of his pain, but he still has bad days just like I do. Having to do his insulin injections twice a day and see him isolate himself sometimes reminds me that even something so loving and happy can experience pain for reasons we do not understand. I make myself get up and take them for a walk because the happiness that a simple walk brings them makes me smile. The smiles and unlimited hugs remind me I have to look at the simple moments in life that humans tend to overlook.

How have I changed my perspective? I take a mental step back and view everyday activities similar to how I think my dogs do! I enjoy the lazy days watching movies, that morning cup of coffee, the hugs I get from them when I get home, the ridiculous jokes my husband tells and the feeling of warm sunshine and the reflection of the clouds off the water. I have stopped trying to keep pushing myself to accomplish what everyone else is working towards and truly enjoy whatever I choose to participate in.

On those bad days when I feel frustrated with my body’s ability to attack itself, my dogs are there for me. They are by my side and a constant reminder of joy. There is always a connection that most people may never understand, and I am OK with that.

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Thinkstock image by manushot

Originally published: April 12, 2017
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