Saturday, December 8, 2012

Therapeutic Companions

As an adult, I have had three dogs. Aside from my husband, they are the loves of my life and though it may be hard to understand for some, I love them like they are my kids. All three have unique dog personalities and have helped me cope with my disabling Migraine and constant headache in their own ways.
Mr. Knightley...ah, my Mister Knightley or simply Knightley for short was what Emma called the man she fell in love with in Jane Austen's novel Emma. I was given my Mr. Knightley, a ten week old Blehneim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel by my parents as a present for my graduation from graduate school when I was twenty-three years old on May 25, 2003. It was ironic that in Emma, Mr. Knightley's first name is George...the same name as my husband who I did not meet until a year and a half later. I was told that male Cavaliers fall in love with their owners and my Knightley lived up to that and then some. I always told Knightley that he was born out of the womb of my heart.

Zoe (pronounced "Zoey") means life. I was not particularly fond of her given name, but when we met her, "Lily" did not match her tomboy-ish attitude. She is intelligent and with her tail wagging, she thinks every person in her view is coming to meet her. She is the youngest and about to turn five years old in January. Zoe is a Black and Tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. On August 4, 2009, we got her from a rescue organization specifically for the breed called Cavalier Rescue USA. (You can see her photo on the website's homepage along with some of my family's other Cavaliers: #4) She was 18 months old. Her prior owners could not afford to care for her after losing their job, and we were so happy to add her to our family.

Giselle was renamed after we adopted her because we felt she deserved a new name to go with her new life. She had had a rough start to life and has an anxiety disorder unofficially referred to as "fly-biting". We named her after a character in one of our favorite Disney movies Enchanted but the only thing she has in common with the Disney character is that they both have red hair as Giselle is a Ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. We got her from Cavalier Rescue USA as well. She had just turned four years old and had been living with her wonderful foster mommy Julie and three cavaliers for a couple months when we adopted her on May 21, 2011. Since she has been with us, she's grown her coat, gained weight and her anxiety disorder has improved though it is still very much present. I am starting to see her become more like a happy healthy dog every day instead of the traumatized little one we adopted.

Recovering from Endolymphatic Sac Decompression Surgery
How the dogs help me cope with my chronic illnesses is largely by being my companions. They help me feel less alone, which is the most important thing for someone who is home bound. Pain can often make one lose perspective, but having my dogs around helps to keep me grounded. They also make me laugh with their silly antics

I love my girls, Zoe and Giselle. They motivate me to get moving and take walks with them when I can. They cuddle when they want to. Zoe is a pro at helping me through anxiety and panic attacks as she is very perceptive. If I'm laying down crying, she will nudge her muzzle under my chin and lift it up. She also gives "hugs". For a dog who likes her space, she is quite attentive when she picks up something is wrong. 
Cuddling during a bad Migraine attack.
 There is a huge hole that was left when my Mr. Knightley died suddenly at 9 years old from Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) on June 8, 2012. He had shared this journey with me from the start of my disabling Migraines and Headaches for four years before we adopted Zoe. Knightley was my caregiver when George was at work, and he knew it. Please read more on how my Mr. Knightley made it onto CNN Health online and how he helped me through Migraine disease by checking out Sharing My Heart & Hope With the World via CNN.
My boy taking care me during a Migraine on vacation. May 2011


  1. Beautiful Kelly! Your fur babies and their pictures (as well as all they do for you) make me smile!

  2. I love that breed, one of my son's friends has one (red and white) that she thought she would have to give up. I immediately volunteered, but her circumstances changed.

    I totally understand how the dogs can keep you calm, and at times make you feel better. My kids called my old dog the "Mommy-sitter" because she never left my side.

    You dogs are beautiful.


  3. Kelly, I can't help but smile when I see those precious faces. I'm so glad that you have each other, and I know how much you cherish them. Thank you so much for sharing your little furbabies with us.

  4. Thanks for sharing the pictures of your precious pets. I certainly agree with you as my 2 dogs (A Brussels Griffon and a Border Collie Mix) bring me so much comfort when I am "sofa/bed bound".
    They just lye there with me and will not move unless for some reason I get up.

    I hope you are doing well and having more pain-free days.


  5. I too agree that a personal companion is a gift, and helps us so much when things are bad. Max (our cat) has tried to take over as mommies comfort, and he does a good job....but he isn't Sandy. She was so intuitive about what I needed and wanted to help so much.
    Sometimes too much so when I was in the middle of a vertigo attack, but she learned to stay close for comfort, but not touch me until invited. (Max has a way to go with that one.)

    I love seeing you with your dear companions. It's so hard to lose someone who has been a constant companion for so many years.
    We've been thinking about adopting another dog. But it's hard for many reasons. I just think it's time to carry on the tradition of Sandy and save another rescue.

  6. Loved reading your story of how your dogs help u. I grew up with a buff-colored cocker spaniel for 13 years. And while she had every single health problem known to the breed she had one of the best temperments of any dog I've had. I know how hard it is to lose a pet, my parents recently lost their pound puppy Trooper, who helped me a lot through my divorce. We are still grieving for him and I frequently still miss my kitty Charmaine that I lost in May at 16.