Updated: Sep 18, 2020
It isn't something I talk openly about as I am still very much coming to terms with my diagnosis - Idiopathic Enthesis Related Arthritis (basically they still don't know for certain) At 22, it's very hard to deal with. I've experienced the pain of it since I was 12 but went undiagnosed/misdiagnosed until 2017.
Some would say getting Chester was selfish with a mobility issue. But, there is increasingly strong evidence that sharing our life with a pet has important health benefits. Some people have told me that they were surprised that I have a dog or to see me walking Chester (with a stick). They ask how I can care for him when I can barely manage to care for my myself. The truth is Chester is great company and a wonderful comfort on bad pain days. He makes my Anxiety less and my desire to go out increase.
In 2016, I had the worst flare up I had ever experienced, my GP sent me to A&E on a risk of Septic Arthritis - It was really terrifying. This flare hit me hard. At the time I didn’t have very many positives, not yet accepting into Universities and self-teaching myself A-levels (Yes i was probably an idiot).
Obviously I couldn't consider getting a puppy while I was recovering and until I knew that going to University was a fact (as in passing said A-levels). Fast-forward to April 2018 Year 1 of University over and Chester was coming home.
I have continued to have flare-ups big and small since bringing him home but being more mentally positive had definitely helped. Anyway a few of you messaged me on Instagram when I first mentioned my Arthritis about caring for yourself and your dog. I though a blog about how i've coped might help.
Here are some tips I have picked up over the past year and a bit. 1. Don't feel guilty for short walks - I've learnt Chester just loves walking with me for 10 minutes or 2 hours it doesn’t seem to matter. If I am having a very bad pain day and can't walk I will alway get Nanny or Pops to take him out and then I will trick train him or use a slow feeder.
2. Plan fun things - When you have a good day grab it! Plan something really fun even if it is simple! Its fun to you and maybe you aren't able to do it all the time.
3. Check your diet - A Anti-inflammatory diet is key for me! Nightshades are problematic (apart from potatoes) for me and create inflammation but everyone is different, find what works for you. But it can be a game-changer when you do. I take turmeric supplements which really help.
4. Speak up about your needs - Don’t be afraid to say that you can't do something. I couldn’t admit for a long time that I needed an automatic car it made me feel old and like i'd lost my youth. I made the change in September and I couldn’t be happier the pain is so much less.
5. Celebrate your success - Give yourself credit for achieving anything even if they are small. Maybe write a to-do list of your achievements and tick them when you’ve done them!
6. Connect with people who “get it.” - Finding people on Instagram even with remotely the same illness has hugely helped me. Giving you support, to know you're not being silly and you're not going through it alone if your family don’t understand.
7. Experiment with exercise - This i'm still to do, at the moment all exercise I do apart from walking; my knee swells up massively. But i am trying!
8. Mental Games - As i said before Mental Games are key with Border Collies anyway but more so when you can't walk! Our favourites are:Wheres the treat? (Hide a treat in alternative hands and make them guess) Hide and seek - (Hide treat under 1 of 4 cups and make them guess) Send for a toy - Chesters toys are all named so I send him to retrieve a specific one - He gets a treat if he gets the right one
9. Halti is your friend - Chester is a puller, lately he has massively turned a corner and is pretty much walking loose lead in all situations. Cities the Haiti still come out though. For those who don’t know what Halti is; They are a head-collar brand that kindly stop your dog from pulling, it pulls their head round to the side giving you more control.
10. Always keep warm - Winter is a killer. With mine in my Knee i need to keep my legs warm otherwise they swell.
11. For those at University - Talk to your lecturers, mind have been amazing and have helped when they can. Letting them know took a huge weight off my shoulder, as it was a huge source of stress missing Lectures or Seminars.
Thank you for reading if you have any questions drop a comment below
Sarah and Chester x