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There are many things I use to help me cope with living with my rare disease, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). However, nothing could compare to my little fur baby, Chloe. She’s a chihuahua I’ve had for over a decade, and I honestly couldn’t imagine my life without her. She’s such a loyal, little companion, and I love her like my own child. It may sound crazy to those who don’t have pets, but for those who do, I’m sure you understand the feeling. 

There are times living with SMA, I feel alone. Those of us who aren’t in a relationship, and don’t have a significant other to come home to, can sometimes feel incomplete. It’s nice to have someone to share your highs and lows with, and although a dog can’t quite understand our every word, they understand our emotions.  

I remember when I came down with COVID-19. I became bedridden for a couple of days because a lot of my strength was lost. Chloe didn’t want to leave my side. I had my dad put her in bed with me, and she slept when I slept. She was so precious. I felt her wake up a couple of times to check on me, and then I felt her little chin snuggle up on my shoulder in the reassurance that “mom” was doing well. And, what I noticed and later realized, she sacrificed eating and going to the bathroom. Chloe laid with me for hours, and not until I got up, did she eat and go potty. 

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Read about HCP resources for SMA

The experience mentioned above is 1 of many where Chloe has brought me immense comfort, and unconditional love. Chloe doesn’t care what I look like, or how upside down my life can get at times. She’s always by my side when I need her, and I’m so thankful for her. Although she can’t do much for me physically, she is my emotional therapist without having to use words to console me. She’s a professional at being super cute and offering the sweetest cuddles without charge. 

In my opinion, having a pet companion can be very beneficial for those who suffer from rare diseases. There are articles I’ve read where cats and dogs have medicinal effects for individuals who suffer from muscle diseases and many other illnesses. Animals are very intuitive and can tell you when something might be off with your health. They can potentially save your life if you listen to their warnings. 

Nevertheless, I hope that more financial support can be offered to those who can’t afford therapy or an assistant pet companion. There are some programs available for free. However, the waiting list is often long and not always promising. Animal adoption agencies are always a great option as well. Many of the animals from adoption shelters are so grateful to be loved and wanted, and I think that’s something those of us with rare conditions can relate to.