How a Puppy Helps Me to Live a Better Life with Myasthenia Gravis
I am approaching my 25th birthday, and due to my poor health, I have had to extend my studies a few times. This has contributed to both the academic success I have maintained and the grief of not graduating with my classmates. As a lover of all animals, I decided that my lightened coursework — which resulted in having academic obligations only for half-days most of the time — made me an eligible candidate for a furry friend. I recently welcomed my Italian greyhound, Pablo, to my family.
My health is the most stable it has ever been, which means I have more energy. It does not, however, mean I have more endurance or any form of fitness. Being mostly in my bed or on the couch for the past couple of years has led to a sharp decrease in my muscle strength and fitness. Myasthenia gravis is a lower motor neuron disease, and muscle atrophy is expected. Now that my health is on the turn, I have been advised to start with light exercises, like walking.
Although I was an avid athlete in my past, I do not enjoy “light exercise.” Honestly speaking, I mostly felt embarrassed while on these short walks, since initially walking fewer than 500 meters was utterly exhausting and led to hours of heavy sleep to recover. I had difficulty establishing a routine in which I took these short walks after my daily obligations had been completed. At least, until I had to make sure that Pablo gets his daily walk.
This little puppy ensured that I maintained motivation to complete my necessary light exercise, mostly by wreaking havoc with his high energy levels when I failed to satisfy his need for daily exercise. We started off on the same level, as puppies are also not too fit themselves. Luckily, I have a ball thrower for when he is older, and we no longer match each other in endurance. When my arms are too weak for the ball thrower I just take him to the dog park and, due to socializing him early, Pablo plays away his energy with the other dogs while I lie on a blanket or sit on a bench.
I have found taking care of others to be easier than taking care of myself. I tend to neglect myself more. In taking proper care of Pablo, I am taking proper care of myself. He instantly became my rehabilitation training partner. I am proud to say that after a little more than a month, we can walk 1 kilometer. I am still exhausted, sweating profusely, and short of breath afterward, but just being able to walk for 1 kilometer is amazing, considering my abilities. Also, getting out of the house is great for my mental health.
Italian greyhounds are also known as “Velcro dogs” because there is no place they would rather be than right by their owner’s side. Another benefit of having Pablo is that he absolutely adores staying in bed with me on the days when I need a little extra rest and recuperation. As seen in the photo, he always lies on my feet when the neuropathic pain from cyclosporine is very intense.
It is far from the truth to say that raising a puppy with myasthenia gravis is easy. It has been challenging and illuminating at the same time. He has forced me to get out of bed on days when my depression was worse than my myasthenia gravis, and for that alone, he deserves all the love in the world. Never stop fighting — life is beautiful.
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