How Our Dog Helps Us Cope with Chronic Illness and Pain

Laughter is a great stress buster, and our dog, Henry, is so funny and entertaining. If you can’t imagine laughing at a dog, this Christmas you need to look for elf booties. They’re little shoes with jingle bells made for dogs. Watching your dog walk in them and try to take them off is good for at least twenty minutes of belly laughs.

My husband, David, has severe Psoriatic Arthritis. Sometimes his flares leave him bedridden for days. I suffer from TMJ Disorder, which means I have chronic jaw pain. We rescued our dog, Henry, from an animal shelter when he was eight weeks old. He’s half lab, half shepherd.

Henry seems to know when we are in pain. He’ll come sit next to us or lick our hands. Henry is fully grown now. At 65 pounds, he’s a great guard dog, barking at people who get too close to our house. However, this big boy is terrified of Chihuahuas. And that’s another great laugh.

When you have used all the peanut butter in a jar, let your dog lick the inside clean. Henry will chase the jar as it rolls all over the kitchen floor. This hilarious scene keeps us entertained for quite awhile.

David’s rheumatologist wants him to exercise to maintain his range of motion. This is very difficult when he’s in pain. On a good day, Henry motivates David to go for a walk. On a bad day, David at least has to get out of bed and open the back door so Henry can do his business.

Being responsible for another creature forces David to keep moving. Henry cannot get the dog food himself. Without opposable thumbs, he can’t turn the faucet and fill his water bowl. David must take care of him. Of course, on the days when David is bedridden, I’m there to take care of Henry. Although Henry doesn’t take the pain away, the distractions he provides help us take our focus off of the pain.

They say laughter is the best medicine, but for us, dog is man’s best medicine.

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