Lupus Limitations: A pug to the rescue

Years ago, I was asked to elaborate on the role my beloved pug dog, Henry, played in the first few years following my lupus diagnosis. My response, which I posted way back when, is found below.

Sweet, loveable Henry has been gone for many years now, but I felt like reposting this today. Having just returned from a nine-day vacation away from our current pup, Tia, (also known as Tee Tee Wee Tee Bean), I think I was reminded how much a dog means to a family. Thus, I'm taking a little trip down memory lane by revisiting my thoughts from a few years back.

Feel free to brush up on all of Henry's antics here - as he was very much a part of my life with lupus, and my frequent posts tell the story.

Here's my original response:

Henry was by my side since the first day of my diagnosis, and there are so many stories to be told regarding his role in my recovery. 

You often hear of the bond that forms between a pet and someone suffering from illness; I can tell you - it's a wonderful thing to have been able to share such traumatic, emotional times with Henry. 

There were instances when I couldn't bring myself to cry in front of my family, but with Henry, I could bury my face in his fur, and just sob. He never said a word - but in his silence, he was letting me know that it was okay to let my guard down. No one else would even have to know. As I say in the dedication of my book, "Despite Lupus", he truly didn't "miss a nap"; in fact, he didn't miss much. I know that life with lupus wouldn't have been the same without old Hen.

And there's no doubt that he helped cushion the blow when it came to slowing down and resting frequently because of lupus' limitations. He was always encouraging us to slow down (that is, stop and let him cuddle in our laps), so he was thrilled when I spent days on end in bed. Truthfully, I don't think he could have thought of anything better. He would snuggle up, keeping me company while I cried myself to sleep, even licking my tears as if to wipe away my hurt. And he'd stare into my eyes as if he could see the emptiness inside, and wouldn't drop his gaze until I did. It was uncanny, really. Dogs don't typically stare you down - but old Henry wouldn't even blink. Usually, he'd try to win out by giving me a couple licks to break my concentration, and then I’d end up giggling out loud. He had a great way of making me laugh, even through my tears. He was just that kind of a guy.

I'd say he was my right-hand man those first few years. I even declared at one point that the LFA's slogan should be, "Got Lupus? Get a Pug", because it was just so soothing to have a constant companion who encouraged me to rest. If I got up out of bed, he would look at me like, "Are you sure you want to do this?" And most of the time, he was right...I needed to head right back to bed. But on the days when I did venture to work or out and about, I always had in the back of my head that Henry was counting on me to get back on time to nap with him. 

In fact, when it came to nap time, I could tell myself it was for Henry's sake, not really mine, and it made it that much easier to convince myself to stop and rest. Even when my morning routine required a nap after dressing, and then another one after showering...he was always the constant. He welcomed me with open arms, keeping the bed warm and making it seem like it was the most natural thing in the world to need to relax after such exertion.

He was also the ideal companion when it came to rebuilding my strength by taking walks around the neighborhood. His normal pace was slower than slow, so he and I would amble along without a care in the world, not wanting to push the other beyond their limitations. He was more than willing to adjust HIS routine and lifestyle to accommodate the changes in mine. 

At one point, I could no longer pick him up and bring him into bed due to the horrific joint pain I had. So, my husband and I invested in an ottoman for Henry - a way that he could get in and out of the bed without my help. It was great! Henry would independently bound into bed, and I wasn't constantly reminded of my limitations every time we rested.

In addition to everything else, Mr. Henry also helped me determine the severity of one of my symptoms, that being my chest pain. If you're familiar with my story, the lining of my lungs had a tendency to fill with fluid (called pleural effusion), making it practically impossible (and very painful) for me to breathe. Those first 6 months were tricky - there was a lot of trial and error with medications, surgical procedures to remove the fluid, and just an overall adjustment to the pain caused by the scar tissue left behind. I was constantly trying to gauge whether or not the fluid had returned...if it had, I needed to get it removed pronto. If it hadn't, but the pain was still there, then my pain medication needed to be revisited. It was a real roller coaster – but here's where Henry came into play:

Ever since he’d been a little puppy (of no more than 4lbs), he had a habit of camping out on our chests when we were lying down. That's where he was most comfortable, and we grew accustomed to him settling in and sprawling his body across ours. Truth is, it felt so warm and fuzzy to feel his little heart beating against ours. But when the pleural effusion was in play, it was too much. That's usually how I knew that something was amiss - if it didn't hurt to have Henry on my chest, I was okay. If I felt a twinge when he plopped down, I'd know something was brewing. And if even the thought of him laying smack dab on top of me was too much, it was definitely time to call the doctor!

So there you are - a little glimpse (and reminder) of how beneficial it can be to have a chronic illness companion! 


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