Migraines and Canines

Not too long ago, my fiancé brought home the most beautiful puppy – a part American Staffordshire Terrier and Southern Louisiana Swamp Cur little girl that he named Butters. She’s almost completely white with spots of black that reminded him of a butter bean – hence her name. This was a two-fold acquisition, we had lost our beloved Drake (a full blood American Staffordshire terrier) not long before Butters came into our lives, but soon she will be serving a greater purpose. When she reaches the proper age, we will begin training her to be my migraine service dog.

Butters picked up my migraines incredibly early, which honestly was no surprise to me or the fiancé – her sire just so happens to be a service dog himself helping veterans with PTSD so it’s deep in her blood. My sweet girl will let me know 10-20 minutes before the pain begins that ‘mama needs my help’ – she crawls into my lap no matter where I’m sitting or what I’m doing and will not budge until I acknowledge her, all the while staring at me with those gorgeous brown eyes that speaks volumes (this is already proving to be a little difficult, she’s 30lbs. and her signal won’t do in public but we will get that fixed). When I do acknowledge her, she gives me the sweetest puppy kisses, eases off my lap and will super glue herself to my leg. That 10-20 minutes is just long enough for me to let her outside so she can potty, take my meds, feed her and the cats if I have not fed them yet, shut down the house and crawl into bed. She’ll ease herself onto the bed with me and after I’ve gotten comfortable, she’ll curl in behind my legs and put her head on my hip. If it’s going to be an exceptionally bad one, she’ll lay next to my stomach and we share the pillow. She’ll stay with me through the whole ordeal, even when my meds take hold and I slip to sleep. When I wake up, I have those beautiful brown eyes looking at me.

She still has a lot of puppy left in her, at only nine months old we have another fifteen months before she can be considered an adult but she’s smart as a whip and already knows the basic commands and I’ve already started working with her lightly on a couple of the commands she’ll need to know when we’re in public. I do allow her those moments to be all puppy and her favorite game at the moment is Squeak the Kitties – I have a litter of four month old kittens that she believes are her playmates. She’s very, very gentle with them, chases them through the house in a game of tag and allows them to use her as a spring board when she’s laying in her bed. In those moments that I let her run free in my front yard, she’s as fast as the wind and could give the greyhounds a run for their money. She’s such the patient, loyal and loving dog, she’ll no doubt make an exceptional service dog when her training is complete, but above all, she’ll be a migraine advocate and a loyal, devoted, cherished member of my family.

My complex migraines are beyond anything I have ever experienced and I know I have frightened my friends and family. My aunts and uncles, cousins, sisters, nieces and nephews and best friend all live three hundred miles away and when these attacks first started happening, everyone was in a panic because I am so far away. I keep in as good of contact with them as I can, update them regularly but I know they still worry but now that Butters has come into our lives, I know they don’t worry so much anymore and that eases them down and gives them some peace.

I have to sit and wonder what it would be like if everyone were like our canine companions. True, unconditional love that stretches beyond our imagination, devotion deeper than anything we have ever experienced and even more so, not the least judgmental. Butters doesn’t think differently of me if I can’t go to the grocery store or have to miss out on an event that I had previously said I would attend, doesn’t think my migraines are just ‘bad headaches mom, you’ll get over it’. She’s right there beside me the second she knows I’m in for trouble, offering me her love and support and always, those brown eyes looking me and asking quietly ‘Mama, what can I do to help?’ and not realizing she already has.

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