Our family loves animals, especially dogs! What can I say, we are dog people :)
Truthfully, the main reason for getting a dog was for Sofia, our loved one with Cerebral Palsy. We knew many people in the disability community who had dogs and mentioned that the dogs enhanced their quality of life. This resulted in extensive research on different breeds and deciding what we wanted in a dog. Once we decided, we welcomed Hana, a red Shiba Inu, to the family. As you can see, Hana is always by Sofia, she even sleeps with her. There is a special bond between human and animal, but I believe it is even more special when the dog has a purpose/ job. In our case, Hana is not a professionally trained dog, but she knows Sofia needs special attention and care, making Hana her helper.
From research I have read, there is a common misconception that service dogs are meant for people with visual impairments, but that is not the case. There are many ways a service animal can help anyone, especially with physical disabilities, M.S. in particular.
In the National MS magazine, Momentum, I found a great article about pets helping people with MS. They mention that there is no specific animal that is good for MS. Really, any animal that gives you joy and that can motivate you to be responsible for something other than yourself. They also explain that trained service animals help improve balance, compensate for numb or spastic hands, provide visual assistance.
What I love the most about this article, is that it has stories of people with MS and their experiences with pets.
Brenda Bolster said, “Every day, Sam (her dog) made me get up and focus on him and not my MS. Along with the joy and comfort he gave me, I found myself working harder to regain my strength in my arms and legs so I could walk him and carry him.”
Pets aren't only therapeutic for the person with disability, but also their caregivers and family members. Worrying about your loved one with the disease is a lot of stress. Bolster found that Sam helped her husband release stress as well.
Whether your furry helper is a service dog or family pet, “nothing can compare to the unconditional love and emotional support they give you,” Bolster says. “They are such a healing thing for the whole family.”
We cannot agree more!
Read the full article here to learn more about service animals and their benefits.
Let us know your experience with your pets or service animals by commenting below.