I have always loved animals, but the bond I’ve shared with my dog is extra special. Kona is sort of like a small child, she requires constant attention and loves to be right next to me no matter what I’m doing. When I got sick, all I wanted was to get out of the hospital and see her, so when the therapy dogs came around each day I was very excited! It made me realize just how great of an impact animals can make in the healing process.
The best part about my dog is that she didn’t act any differently when I came home. After getting sick I had to move back in with my parents. This was a total morale killer for me, and it is still a sensitive subject. I felt like I completely lost my independence. Never mind that my parents were completely uneducated about ITP, no one briefed them on how to care for me and it left them so panicked that they almost drove me into the ground. There were some nights where I questioned if it was worth it to be alive. They overreacted and had absolutely ZERO knowledge of my disease. Then on top of that I was told to “stay off the internet” which is the exact opposite of what rare disease patients should do. I found solace in the love and playfulness of my dog. She didn’t care where we were staying, she enjoyed the extra cuddles.
As time went on and I made my way to UM where the doctors set my parents straight (can’t thank them enough for this), I was able to do more than just cuddle with my dog. Even with low energy, I felt an instant boost when playing tug of war and fetch. Having a pet brings you a certain level of warmth and nonjudgmental social interaction that you won’t find anywhere else. Especially from humans, caretakers and freaked out parents! This was the nurturing I needed to cope with what had just happened to me. Little did I realize, playing with my dog was a part of my old life that had survived after being diagnosed with ITP.
Kona has a way of making me forget about the pain, and acknowledging my struggles when dealing with side effects from my treatments. A few weeks ago I was sitting by the toilet trying to figure out if I was going to vomit (thanks Rituxan). I remember her pushing the bathroom door open and just looking at me. She had no idea what I was doing but I’m sure I didn’t look well because she came and laid next to me with her head in my lap. I didn’t want anyone around me, but my dog is okay. She’s seen me at my scariest with no make up and my hair in a knot. Somehow she still manages to love me, and I think that’s pretty cool.