What would you say if I told you that the best therapist has four legs and a wagging tail? Or that my best friend likes belly rubs and chasing after cats? You’d probably think I was crazy, but my closest companion happens to be my 8-year-old dog Alfie (he’s also known as Alfred when he gets into trouble!). He’s a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Pug. His breed is more fondly known as a Jug! He’s the resident sock thief and postman patrol in our house and from the day he arrived, he’s left paw prints on all of our hearts.

I’d be lying if I said I was the greatest animal lover growing up. I remember having many goldfish as pets when I was a child and a phase where I wanted to save the whales, but a dog didn’t come into my life until after I had been diagnosed with MS in my early 20s. My Mam thought it was a good idea to have a dog to keep me company after a traumatic few months. My Dad didn’t really want a puppy around the house, but you’d be surprised how much bargaining power you gain after you get MS. Suddenly nobody could say “No” to the idea of a dog joining our family. It’s also true what they say that the purest form of love exists between a dog and a Dad who never wanted them in the first place. Suddenly my Dad had a four-legged friend to join him on walks and someone to snooze with in front of the TV. They’ve been inseparable ever since Alfie became the sixth member of the family!

Nadia's Dog

It’s hard to put into words just how much a pet can do for you after an MS diagnosis. They’re like a therapist that doesn’t actually talk to you. They’re like a best friend that can’t speak your language. They’re like a teacher who doesn’t use any words. On some level I think they can sense how difficult life is at that time. Alfie was by my side when I was experiencing side effects from my first DMT.

He kept me company when I was adjusting to a new normal and some days, he was the only reason that I left the house. I think he could almost sense bad days and never expected much from me when I just didn’t have the energy to give to him. He understood when it was a day for watching reruns of Friends and taking it easy. On better days, he introduced me to  the many dog owners in our area and I’ve spent many summer evenings watching Alfie chasing his buddies around our local dog park.

Whether it’s a Great Dane or a Guinea Pig, a pet can bring so much joy into your life following the shock of an MS diagnosis. I’m a fully-fledged Crazy Dog Lady at this stage and couldn’t imagine my life without my canine companion. They have so much unconditional love and loyalty to give to you at a time when you really need it most. Your furniture will never be free from dog hair, your pockets will never be without a doggy poop bag, but your heart will never feel so full.