When living with chronic pain, life can get so complicated, stressful and many times a sense of a lack of control. All these issues can often produce intense anxiety. And then, at that unexpected moment, one can observe something so simple, loving and tender often bringing a sense of emotional renewal.
What I am about to describe could be for us all, if we just allow ourselves to let it happen.
My husband and I were stopped at a light and I happened to look to the car on my right. In the car was a dog, back feet on the back seat and the front paws over the driver’s shoulder. The dog proceeded to snuggle more and more into the crest of this woman’s neck. As he proceeded to get closer, she kept giving him kisses as she waited for the light to change to red. The sight was simple, loving, caring and just filled my husband and me up. We have described this incident to many of our friends as it was such a wonderful example of the simple delights available to all of us if we open ourselves up to them.
Living with chronic pain can bring on uncertainty, anxiety and chaos into one’s life. Those of us suffering from chronic medical conditions often find ourselves waiting for the next shoe to drop. Simple pleasures can get ignored due to the pain and often unanticipated change in our physical condition. But this young woman and her dog brought back into our lives the importance of unconditional love an animal brings to your life.
My husband and I are lucky to have Maggie, my service dog, in our life along with an older rescue dog, Lilly. One of the most loving and tender parts of each day is when we wake up and invite the dogs onto the bed to say hello. We get licked, loved up and filled up with happiness starting out each day. We both feel like this might the most powerful time of our day. The love of an animal is hard to even put into words.
I have spent my life surrounded by pets – cats, dogs, cows, goats, pigs, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, to name a few. And I even had the honor of working at Turtle Back Zoo in NJ, through high school and summers when home from college. I was lucky to experience the love from wild animals, too. Working in the nursery as an animal keeper, I had the honor of raising babies that lost their mother and were brought to the zoo. My favorite was the raccoon I raised. I would walk around the zoo with this racoon on my shoulders. When it was time to leave for college, my special friend was put into a cage for the first time with other raccoons. Upon my return to visit at Thanksgiving, he came running down off the branch of the tree to greet me. By December, visiting again when home, I was horrified to find he had overeaten himself to the point of death. It was explained to me by the zoo staff that this most likely was due to the loss of our relationship. He had bonded so closely that he never got over the parting. If only the college had allowed me to bring him to college too! And yes, I was so attached to him I had called the college to see if I could bring him with me. They must have wondered what type of nut they had admitted.
No matter how tough the day gets with pain, recovery, or even feeling isolated, my pets have always helped me cope. The love, caring, attention and even life-saving acts from my service dog are beyond measure. I can’t imagine life without a pet to love and love me back. When out in public with Maggie, I have been approached by so many individuals inquiring about my service dog. Many of them seem drawn to me due to the recent loss of their lost pet. I understand that empty feeling and always encourage them to think about loving again. So many people are sure nothing can replace the pet they lost and thus choose not to get another one. But, why not consider adopting a new pet? It may mean saving one that is sitting in a rescue or pound frightened, lost and scared. I don’t think we have ever had a day with our rescue pets that they haven’t shown appreciation to belong and be loved. And in return, we get the unconditional love from them.
So if you are feeling frightened, lonely, lost and saddened by the losses of living with chronic pain, consider adding a pet to your life. You will be loved, understood and have more purpose and meaning in your life. That pet will need you as much as you need them! I know it may seem impossible with your medical challenges to care for a pet, but that challenge to work out is worth it. May you too, enjoy the unconditional love of a pet.
May life be kind to you,
Ellen Lenox Smith
Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain– And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.