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How My Dogs Have Helped Me Through My Healing Journey

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When people hear that you are in treatment for a chronic disease, they tend to think you take your meds, lay around all day and heal. Simple as that! I admit, I thought that too before I began treating chronic Lyme disease in 2013. Honestly, I never gave illness too deep of a thought. I kept it out of my reality because it scared me, and I think I also knew I was sick myself and would eventually have to face it. Funny how that works.


Of course, taking medications and lying around does help, but it is also the people and things we surround ourselves with while in treatment too. Lately, I have given some deep thought to the things that also contributed to my healing and what got me to where I am today, here and able to share my story. Of course my doctors, the treatments and my routine is crucial, but my family and friends, partner and my dogs are a major part too. Without any of them, I would not be here right now – I can wholeheartedly admit that. Especially my dogs.

For the first two and a half years of treatment, I was bedridden. My partner was living across the country back in San Francisco with our dog Bender and when I came back to the east coast, I took our dog Olaf. Our family was split up. It was a tremendously dark and trying time in my life. I honestly do not remember much of it, just bits and pieces, but the things I do remember, Olaf was always by my side. He literally laid in bed with me 24/7. When I took a shower, he waited for me on my bed, a bath, he laid by the tub and since all three of my meals were in bed, he ate them with me too. We were fortunate enough to have a neighbor who walked him for me every day and when he came back from those walks I would hear him dart up two flights of stairs to jump back in bed with me and take post as my bedside partner.

woman and her dog curled up in bed
Olaf and I

Eventually, my partner and other dog Bender joined us out here on the east coast. They will be here with me until we return home next year. Now I have two dogs that take care of me. Recently, I am able to walk again and without them, I could not do it. I have a lot of anxiety and PTSD that accumulated with the experience of treatment, and walking without them is one big panic attack. I freeze up when I cross major streets, I tense when passing a stranger and I get nervous if a stranger approaches me to talk. I also know if I get dizzy and need to call someone to come and get me, I will not be waiting alone. I have registered them as therapy dogs so each are able to fly with me and go into businesses, but I only do that as needed and very rarely. Without these two in my life, treatment would be so much more complicated.

two dogs curled up on a bed
Olaf and Bender

The compassion and love from our pets is unconditional. They do not care what we look like, smell like or anything material we own. They just love us. When I have a panic attack or just a day when I want to be alone and away from the world, I do not mind if they are with me. We have gone through so much together. Many people I talk to who are also dealing with health issues often tell me about their pets and how they have helped them cope through some hard times. Even petting or laying with an animal can calm you to a state of relaxation; it helps you to redirect your thoughts and tune in to their calm, their energy and you just know that no matter what, you have the loyalty of them as your companion.

Although my dogs are what help me through my healing journey, emotional support animals can be anything from a horse to a mouse. It is what makes you personally happy. Do you have a dog or an animal that helps you through your healing journey?

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Originally published: July 24, 2017
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