Walking the Dog, An MS Adventure Story

It’s 7 in the morning and it’s raining cats and dogs. I need to walk our dog and the thought of it is not very appealing. We live in a condo, so this activity requires getting dressed, squatting down to feed Joey, squatting again to get him hooked up with his leash, getting my rain gear on and going down the elevator. Not a big deal for most folks, but a little bit of a bigger deal for someone like me, who has MS.Joey and scooter 1

I don’t actually walk Joey. He trots alongside me as I ride my scooter. We’ve gotten pretty good at doing this, but the elevator can be a bit of a challenge, as can meeting up with most other dogs. Joey, who is a Cocker Spaniel, likes people more than he likes most dogs. (If you’re a certain age, you may appreciate the Joe Cocker connection.) He also likes to be the boss. (Not to be confused with The Boss.)

In the rain, it’s a bit of a challenge to get off the scooter with my cane, have his leash in one hand and the poop bag in the other – especially if there’s another dog around. I give myself extra points for completing the poop pickup if the wind is strong, which it often is here at the ocean.

Anyway, it’s not easy having a dog or, for that matter, a cat (more about the cat shortly). So I was surprised when I was contacted by a writer for another website who was putting together an article about the benefits that accrue to someone with a disability who lives with a pet. Benefits? Let me think about that and get back to you.

Meanwhile, let me introduce you to TJ. TJ. is a retired grand champion show cat, and he knows it. Like most cats, TJ thinks it’s great fun to plop down in front of me as I’m walking – not such a good thing to do to a guy who walks with two canes. He tries to nibble my ankles when I’m sitting – a dangerous thing to do to a guy who has a cane. I accidentally stepped on his tail one day with my bad leg. For a very long five seconds I couldn’t move and he couldn’t move, but we each managed to escape uninjured. Of course, as with all cats, there’s also kitty litter. Need I say more?

Yes, I eventually told that writer, there are benefits to having a pet for someone with a disability. There’s never-ending companionship, at least with the dog. There’s that friendly greeting when you get home (dog only) and the piercing howl when you leave. There’s the warm body curled up next to you at night, leaving you about two feet of room in a king-sized bed (mostly dog, but the cat can get pushy).

And, if you put Joey and TJ together, the result can sometimes be some great entertainment:

So, back to the original question. What are the benefits of someone with a disability having a pet? As far as I can see, the benefits are no different from the benefits for someone who’s healthy! And, they’re usually worth an occasional walk in the rain.

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10 thoughts on “Walking the Dog, An MS Adventure Story

  1. Alyssa

    I love animals! They have a healing power, however, I am glad we do not have a dog. It would be hard to walk them so they get the exercise they need. We have 2 cats and they are absolutely amazing!!! They know how I am feeling and try to help! I will say, one of them gets in the way sometimes and almost trips me because is always under my feet. I should be know it already, but it slips my mind! But, animals are SO much better than people!!!!

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      1. Alyssa

        I absolutely love my cats! I always stop if I see a dog running along alone. I know they might bite me, but I go slow approaching them. I don’t want anything to happen to any animal!!

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      1. Alyssa

        I understand. Our boy cat is a Mama’s boy and does not pay attention to my husband. Our female cat, that we have had for 14 years, is a Daddy’s girl but she shares her love with all!

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  2. Gwen

    I have had MS for 24 years. I have 2 1/2 year old Springer Spaniel. She is such great company for me, especially since I have had to stop working as a teacher in the past few years and stay home. She is a very loving companion who is very in tune to my needs. She knows not to jump up on me, eventhough not jumping up for a Springer is hard and not perfectly controlled with other people!! Previously my husband was the one who had to take her for her walks but she has just begun going with the two of us, tied to my scooter. She is doing fabulous. On her second try, a woman in the local park asked me if she was a service dog! It is amazing how she just trotts along beside me like she has a job to do. She ignors other dogs, kids on bikes or skate boards and such. I am truly amazed that she does so well!! It is so wonderful to be able to join along with my husband on their walks in the wooded trails or on the streets in our neighbourhood. One day we were out for a two hour walk. I bring poop bags, if needed, but so far she waits until we are home and does her business in our fenced in back yard. A fenced in yard is a must, in my opinion, for a person with MS with a dog. Two times now just she and I have gone on our own and she has been just as good. She is a wonderful smart dog. Interesting that you also have a spaniel, but a cocker spaniel!! Spaniels are such smart loving dogs.

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    1. The MS Wire Post author

      Hi Gwen,

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, spaniels are great. I have to say, however, that your pal is better behaved than Joey. Joey loves to make friends with PEOPLE. But, he’ll trot along my scooter until he sees another dog. Then he either wants to run and play with a new friend or he growls and wants to prove that he’s the boss. It’s 50/50 which way he’ll go, but he definitely doesn’t want to continue calmly trotting. 🙂

      Ed

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