I live with 2 dogs and have a disability which restricts my mobility. My disability started 8 years ago, well before my current 2 dogs became part of my family. At the beginning of my condition I already had Tanya, a staffy/lab cross. Many people told me that I should get rid of her when my disability started, but that was not an option for me. She was my companion & best friend, who helped me through many dark times and continued to do so as my condition worsened. When she passed away in my arms, I was devastated and heart broken. I couldn’t bear life without a dog and kept hearing her, so a month later I adopted Coal, who had had his sight restored thanks to the Dogs Trust and a wonderful ophthalmologist based in Edinburgh. I then went on to foster Tess from Staffordshire Rescue Scotland and then adopted her. I’m not going to lie, in the beginning with Tess it was hard work, as at 10 months old she hadn’t been toilet trained, walked or socialised, so was basically a pup and I had to start at the beginning with her, but she learned quickly. I adore puppies but they are hard work, so adopting an older puppy/dog was the best choice for me.
My dogs are the reason I get up every morning, they give me purpose to my life and they make me smile throughout the day. They know when I’m having a flare up and are by my side (or on top of me!) to offer comfort. When I fall, when out walking them and can’t get up by myself, they bark and run to get help, without being trained to do so.
I have had to adapt certain things, like sitting instead of standing, whilst training them, a mobility scooter to walk them, a dog drinking water fountain, to save me bending several times a day to refresh their water, raised dog bowl stands to save me bending as low to feed them (and it also improves their digestion), use of a poo pick up stick again to save me bending.
Training them not to pull on the lead was the most difficult, as I was having to control both dogs and the mobility scooter, whilst taking care not to run over them! but with patience and repetition we get there, well most of the time! Many times a day I have to ignore my body telling me to ‘stop and that I can’t do something ‘cos its too much’ which does increase my pain levels. If I didn’t have dogs i would be doing nothing just sitting, seizing up and getting stiffer, resulting in creating more pain when I did move. My condition will continue to deteriorate, so if I don’t move it will simply deteriorate quicker, I would have less mobility and I do aim to be as mobile as I can for as long as I can and the dogs give me will power to do so. Through it all I couldn’t/wouldn’t be without my beautiful loving dogs.
Pain rules my life so without the dogs I would have sunk into a deep depression with no light at the end of the tunnel. There would be very little (if any) joy in my life, if it weren’t for my fur babies. Quite simply i wouldn’t be living, only surviving. Sure I still get depressed about my situation, who wouldn’t, but my dogs always lift my spirits no matter how bad I feel. Getting out and about with the dogs allows me to interact with other dog owners in the community, which I wouldn’t have as I wouldn’t leave the house except for doctor/hospital appointments. I am lucky that I have family and friends that walk my dogs on the days that I physically cannot get to the shed which contains my mobility scooter. There are ways round most things if you want it badly enough. It may cost a bit more financially,and be painful, but what you gain is immeasurable, emotionally and physically. I know I would have deteriorated a lot more had I not had dogs and emotionally I’d be more of a mess. They have helped me no end with their unconditional love. I would advise anyone to get a dog, the right one is out there just waiting on you.
My dogs are great company and as many people living with pain/disability already know, your world becomes smaller and more isolated and you feel lonely, but with dogs you don’t have time to be introverted, they’re always there waiting to please you. When you’re out walking them, most other dog walkers will talk to you (which for most doesn’t seem like much, but when you go most days without speaking to people it means a lot!) and you can arrange to meet up and walk together, which opens up your world that little bit more.
Whilst I am a fiercely independent person, who hates asking for help for myself, when it comes to the dogs I have no problem asking for help, as their needs are paramount. In my experience I’d recommend getting a dog to anyone, disabled or not, but whoever you are you should think carefully before taking on a dog, as it is a lifetime commitment, albeit a rewarding one. Think of your limitations and if/how they can be overcome, if you can cope with a puppy or if an older dog would be more suitable for your lifestyle. If you come to the decision that dog ownership is not for you, there are other avenues that can be explored i.e walking dogs for friends/neighbours in your vicinity, who for whatever reason, cannot walk their own pets or walking dogs for your local rescue.
Another really worthwhile option is to foster a dog through a rescue charity like Staffordshire Rescue Scotland, until the forever home required comes along. Personally speaking I will always have dogs in and around my life, and to all those people that advised I get rid of Tanya need to open their minds to the benefits of dog ownership.