Among the benefits of having a pet is unconditional love

Pets can also be a connection to the outside world

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by Mark Harrington |

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Four years ago, I met up with a cousin who had recently moved to Texas. I hadn’t seen Margi since a Fourth of July celebration three years earlier. I’ve gotten to know her better over the years and have developed a love and respect for her that continues to bless this second act of my life.

During dinner that night, Margi showed me a picture of her best friend, Pablo, and asked if I would like to meet him. I hesitated since he didn’t look like my type. Later, I decided I had nothing to lose, so I told Margi to bring him along on some sort of rendezvous.

A few days later, she invited me to dinner with her and Pablo. On the appointed evening, we were introduced. I was a little cautious, and I could tell he was wary. As we sat with a glass of wine before dinner, I observed him very carefully. He’s short, stocky, and very muscular.

We moved on to dinner, but I noticed that Pablo wasn’t eating. His constant attempts to control Margi caught my attention. I filed this under things to talk about when Pablo isn’t around. Where did she find this character?

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Over the next few weeks, I kept bumping into Pablo. I reached the point where I was comfortable being alone with him, and that was when he captured my heart. I could see how loving and kind he is, and he doesn’t express any type of prejudice. Everyone he meets is an opportunity to demonstrate love.

Sometimes I’ll go days without seeing him, and the moment we’re together again, I can sense his joy. It’s great having someone in your life who is always happy to see you.

Six years ago, Sadie, my dog and constant companion for 15 years, died. I was devastated. She had entered my world at a time when I was in a funk, and had helped me get through that low point in my life. Our bond became one of the strongest I’ve ever known.

The high school where I taught had a veterinary training program. They asked if Sadie could come to school every day and work in the program. I immediately consented. Over the years, there were more pictures of her in the yearbook than of any faculty, staff, or student. When she died, they named a park in her honor. I will never have a park named after me. I don’t know if that says more about her or me.

Is it time?

Nobody knows more about dogs than Pablo. He helped me see that it is time to let another dog into my life. But one thing gave me pause: I have myasthenia gravis (MG). Before adopting, I needed to know how a pet might affect me, so I did some research.

An article by the Cleveland Clinic noted four benefits of pet ownership that apply to people living with a chronic illness. One of the most important components of controlling MG is keeping stress levels as low as possible. “Research has shown that petting a dog decreases the stress hormone cortisol,” the article noted. “This helps to decrease your blood pressure and overall helps you feel less stressed.”

Staying grounded can be difficult for those of us with rare conditions. Pets bring order to one’s life. Dogs need to be walked. Cats need their litter box changed. It doesn’t matter what your mood is or how rotten the weather is, like a child, their needs must be met. The article adds that “having that routine — and putting something or someone else before you — provides a physical and mental boost.”

My neurologist maintains that exercise helps to regulate MG. Walking a dog every day benefits both the dog and the human. Two birds, one stone.

When our sometimes difficult journeys exact an emotional toll from us, pets step up to the plate as loyal companions. When illness isolates us, a pet will be there, providing a vital link to the world beyond our symptoms.

Today, my relationship with Pablo continues to grow. A crucial turning point was the first time I let him sleep with me. Margi won’t let him sleep with her because she hates his snoring, but that doesn’t bother me.

Dang it! I forgot to mention that Pablo is a French bulldog.

Note: Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.


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