How a Puppy Helps Me to Live a Better Life with Myasthenia Gravis

Retha De Wet avatar

by Retha De Wet |

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(Photo by Retha De Wet)

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.


(Photo by Retha De Wet)

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.

(Photo by Retha De Wet)

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.


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.


Charles Olsen avatar

Charles Olsen

Dear Retha, I am three times your age (75 in October) but I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles. Our commonality it of course the accursed MG. You articulate so much of what I'm experiencing and you help me not feel like the only one. Intellectually I know this, but on a daily basis it's a bit overwhelming and I am alone most of the time. I too have a pet that absolutely would rather be with me. It's a little ll year old female chihuahua. He name is Cricket. I'm applying for a position with you. That of pen-pal. :>)

Jodi Anderson avatar

Jodi Anderson

I had just commented on a post where someone with MG got a new puppy and then, boom!, I stumbled upon this article. :)

I also have velcro dogs, Australian Cattle dogs. (Good-bye going to the bathroom alone!) They are the center of my world. They bring me so much joy everyday, but they alone are what pulls me through the worst days and keep me in the moment.

Thanks for sharing your story. <3

Rick Carroll avatar

Rick Carroll

Wow, nice post! I have a puppy but it is not helpful like yours. Thanks for sharing your own experience with us!


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