Your pet stories – MS Awareness Week 2022

MS Awareness Week pet storiesRachel and BonnieEmma and Mollie

We asked you, MS-UK supporters and followers to share your pet stories with us for MS Awareness Week 2022. MS-UK is looking at the ways that pets can enrich your life and contribute to improved wellbeing.

Here, we’ll be sharing your stories to raise awareness of how being a pet owner can be beneficial when living with a long-term health condition, such as MS, and celebrating all the things that your furry companions bring into your life.

She cheers me up when I'm upset

Rachel shares how Bonnie, her Labrador make a difference to her daily life.

‘I have relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) and experience a range of symptoms. This includes being off balance, dizziness, weakness in my arms and legs, numbness and hot flushes.

We decided to get Bonnie when she was four and a half months old, shortly after our cat passed away, and she will be four in November. She keeps me company, she’s a very happy, lovely dog, and so clever. She can fetch, paw, lay down, sit and even fetches the post for me and helps me with the washing. She has an automatic ball launcher as with multiple sclerosis (MS), my arms get tired throwing the ball when she has lots of energy, so we’ve been teaching her how to use that.

My partner walks her after work and we go for walks together on the weekends, letting her run around the big fields. If I’m upset, she licks my face and lays on me to help cheer me up and make me laugh, bringing me one of her toys. She has a fantastic sense of humour and everyone loves her – she surprises me with the things she does!

Bonnie isn’t hard to look after, but my partner and mum help with looking after her as Bonnie and I live with my mum.’

Millie is the best thing ever

Diane tells us how important her dog is to her.

‘We got Millie when she was 15 weeks old as a recue dog. I have relapsing remitting MS (RRMS), experiencing severe pain and cramps in my legs, making it difficult to walk at times. Millie knows when I’m in pain, and when I was fell recently, she stayed by my side.

We’ve had her seven years, and she’s made my life complete. My three children have grown up and flown the nest, and she has since filled that gap left behind. No matter how I’m feeling, she needs to go for her walks and it’s something I make sure that she gets every day.’

He needs my care and loyalty

Wendy tells us all about her cat, Hero

‘I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) in 2005, and I now have secondary progressive MS (SPMS) and use an electric wheelchair. I’m independent and drive my van all over the country and my cat, Hero sulks when I’ve been away!

He was a gift from a friend whose aunt bred Norwegian forest cats, and Hero wasn’t the right fit for showing and breeding, so he came to live with me. Like any typical cat, he likes to bring home presents, so I’ve decided against a cat flap.

He came to me when he was three years old, and he’s now eight. Since arriving into my life, Hero has become a big comfort to me, and he’s the reason I get up in the morning. He needs my care and loyalty, and close friends support us with vet visits if I’m away.’

They keep me alert and on my toes

We have two dogs, Loki and Luna. Luna was gifted to my husband and Loki soon followed, and they’re both great company for me. I have lived with secondary progressive MS (SPMS) since 2016, and we have had the dogs for a couple of years now. I love that they keep my mind active, regardless of my disability. I try to meet their needs by letting them out into the garden throughout the day, feeding them at mealtimes and giving them a fuss. If I find it difficult to look after them, my husband is happy to help out.

I saw a picture of Evie and knew we had to adopt her

Sian recently welcomed Evie into their home

‘I’m about to start a new disease modifying therapy (DMT) with Ocrevus, after a few years of Gilenya. I have relapsing remitting MS (RRMS), and the headaches, fatigue and poor eyesight have returned for me at the moment, but fingers crossed not for long.

Our cat, Evie came into our lives six months ago. I had shingles as a side effect of the DMT I currently take, and decided to look on the local animal rescue website when I was bored. I saw a picture of Evie and knew we had to adopt her. She had been taken in as a pregnant stray and was so skinny from her feeding her babies – she was only one year old herself. All her kittens were adopted, leaving poor Evie and those big green eyes looking for a home.

If I’m stuck at home ill, she stops me feeling sorry for myself and playing fetch with her favourite ball keeps us both occupied. She’s such a little character! She makes me laugh everyday and really helps my mood and mental health. In the mornings, I struggle with fatigue and waking up, but she’s always so happy to see me and it makes it much easier.

She’s very low maintenance to look after, even if she does think she’s the queen!’

Gary keeps me going

Jane tells us all about her dogs, including Gary and the difference they make

I have had dogs my whole life, and I like to take on rescue dogs or dogs that need a bit of help. I have had Gary since 2015, Angel since 2016, and took on Harmony in 2021, with Biddy joining us this year. Gary arrived to us as an undeveloped six-month-old puppy who was matted and had a tough start. He gave me purpose, and it’s been a privilege to help him have a better life and upbringing.

When the lockdowns began I was sitting around drinking alcohol a lot more, gaining weight and it impacted my mental health. Having the dogs meant that I had to get up and get out to look after them. With Gary beside me, we started to walk, building up our miles. I watched what I ate and we started to do walking challenges for fun, which then became fundraisers.

I have recently been diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) in March of this year after three years of investigations following vertigo, balance problems, and speech and sight issues. Last summer, I lost sight in one eye due to optic neuritis. I was broken, but one look from Gary when he wanted to go for a walk meant that I tried to get out for him. He stuck by my side through every bump, guiding me as if he knew, helping me to carry on walking. Thankfully, my sight returned but we still walked and continue to. It’s not always as far as we would like due to the ups and downs of my health, but Gary keeps me going and keeps me mentally stable, smiling and out and about!’

They are my best little friends

Introducing Arnie and Bronson, Lauren’s two dogs

I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) in February of this year. The symptoms affect the right side of my body – the constant pins and needles, heat sensitivity, itching, brain fog and fatigue.

I have had Bronson for four years and Arnie for 11 months. I decided to get dogs because no home is complete without a fluffy friend! Since having them, they’ve brought a level of love you can only understand if you have pets – they are my best little friends! They help to keep me active, allowing me to walk and explore places that I otherwise wouldn’t have gone to. In terms of my mental health, they make me smile constantly and give a good snuggle if I’m feeling low.

Whilst I don’t need any additional support to look after them, if I’m having a bad day, I struggle to walk them together as I can lose the strength in my right arm.’

She ensures I get out the house daily

Emma tells us about her pets

My name is Emma and I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) 15 years ago, aged 24. I am a single mum to a teenager and a medically retired teacher. My mobility is the main symptom that I struggle with, and I find it very challenging to walk or stand.

We have one dog and one hamster, and our dog’s name is Mollie. We have had her for seven years, and I decided to get her to keep me company. Since she arrived in our lives, she makes me smile and ensures that I get out the house daily. Mollie keeps me as active as I can be, and taking her out helps me see others which is good for my mental health.

If the weather is particularly cold or wet, I’ll need someone to walk her for me.’

You can find out more about the ways pets can contribute to your wellbeing with animal communicator and therapist, Ruth Bradshaw’s blog.

If you would like to share your pet story with us this MS Awareness Week, you can do so by clicking here.