When Migraines are at Play, a New Puppy is a Gamble
It has been seven years since I had a dog. In that time, I have stopped working due to Chronic Migraine. Sidelined from my career due to pain, there are times I spend days in bed, struggling with severe nausea and vomiting. However, I am also a seriously major dog person. I love dogs. They bring me great joy. My teenage sons have badgered us for a dog nearly every day of these past seven years. They also are dog lovers.
We have two elderly cats, who are a great source of comfort to me and seem to know when I need extra calming attention during a migraine. However, I’ve never stopped feeling our family was missing a dog.
ME: “Should I get a dog?” EVERYONE: No.
I’m blessed enough to have a number of people in my life who have cared for me when I have been unable to care for myself. They have seen me on my absolute worst days. Whenever I had a hankering for a dog, I asked them for advice. I got a full-throated “no” from each of them. They all had completely valid reasons as to why adopting a dog was a horrible idea.
It’s too much of a gamble, they said. What if the dog barks? I wouldn’t be able to handle the noise. What if the dog doesn’t sleep through the night? The disruption to my sleep schedule would undoubtedly trigger more migraines. What if the dog pulls on the leash? It would only make my neck pain worse and lead to more migraines. My husband doesn’t love animals. What if I can’t care for the dog and he has to take it on? That will mean more stress on us both.
Of course they were right. There are many risks when adopting a dog. It is a huge and real gamble. Who knows what kind of dog we might end up with?
If I were to move forward with finding a dog, it seemed to me the main questions centered around finding the right time and finding the right breed (and then the right puppy within that breed).
I took all of their advice to heart and thought for a long time. Well … for seven years!
The right time
Now that my sons are looking at their final years of high school, it seemed like the right time. They could be a part of its life and its training. It seemed to make even more sense to get a dog during summer break as the boys could be especially helpful during that time.
The right breed and the right puppy
I researched a lot. Thankfully my friend and neighbor introduced me to the dreamy breed of Goldendoodles, a type of dog I’d never seen before. Over the last several years I have fallen hard for her dog and indeed pretended, in my mind, the he was mine. I researched this breed and learned that they are highly trainable, low shedding and very friendly.
All my life, my dogs have been from shelters, or ones I’ve rescued from the side of the road. I’d looked down on the idea of getting dogs from breeders due to the idea that there are enough dogs in the world looking for homes. But after having some heartbreaking experiences with shelter dogs who had awful health or behavioral issues, I thought it worth getting a puppy that we knew had a loving experience from the start.
Rolling the dice
After all the years of consideration and months of research and reflection, we decided to move forward. The truth is, chronic migraines force us to live very regimented lives in which we exclude a lot of life’s pleasures because they are potential migraine triggers.
Unfortunately, some of the experiences we eliminate from our lives out of fear that they will trigger migraine are also the ones that have the capacity to bring us great joy and even wellness.
So, after deciding on the time and type, I found a breeder. One of my sons and I went to pick out the puppy from the litter. It was so important to me to get a calm puppy. I couldn’t tolerate one that was dominant or hyper. We held the puppies for a while. One of them just relaxed in our arms. She was calm and easy. She didn’t bark. She was submissive, but not overly so. I could just feel her energy and it calmed me down. She calmed me down.
Coming up roses
We brought her home a few months ago. Suffice it to say, this gamble that could’ve resulted in an uptick in migraines and exploded in my face, has had the opposite effect. She has given me a healthy and positive focus. She provides me with a reason to go outside many times a day for a quick walk around our house. Before, I would sometimes spend four or five days in my house without ever stepping foot outside due to pain. Now, I don't have that choice and that's been a good thing. Sometimes I just sit on our front stoop or in our yard and watch her interact with nature or play ball with her. I smell the air and look at the trees. It is such a nice change of pace from feeling stuck inside in pain all the time. Even though I'm still in pain, she's given me a wonderful reminder that there’s so much beauty right outside and there’s more to the world than my migraines.
She is beautiful and gentle and silly and rough. Thank goodness she does not bark or pull on the leash. If all of those things had come to fruition, I suppose we would’ve had to build a fence outside and had her spend a fair amount of time outside. But as it is, she is with me all the time. A constant and loving companion of comfort and peace. She makes me laugh and smile through my pain.
It was a gamble- but one I won and my heart came up full of joy and full of grace. Her name is Gracie Mae.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?