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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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • TracieCMS
    4 years ago

    I love hearing stories like this! I am a chronic migraine sufferer of 30 + years. I still fight, educate myself as much as I can, and continue to hope and pray that one day there will be a cure for this misunderstood, life changing, debilitating disease that so many of us struggle with every day! It affects not only the migraine suffer, it affects our caregivers, (Whom I am so very thankful for & couldn’t live without them!!) family, friends, employers, Dr.’s, the many plans, appointments and family gatherings that we all have to miss! And most people think “Oh, it’s JUST a headache!” Or, “Oh, she has another headache!”
    I have one very special caregiver, our 15 yr old miniature dachshund! She knows when I get a migraine and will not leave my side until it has passed! When I am down, my husband and son bring my ice-packs, heat wraps, water, meds and will rub my feet (to help me relax and to stimulate blood flow) and the trigger points. If our baby (Roxy- our 15 yr old mini dachshund) needs to go out, my husband or son will take her out. She literally runs back to the bedroom to be right by my side!! And she will stay there for days!! I had one of the very worst migraines ever about a year ago! It was horrible! My husband and son were not home, so it was just Roxy taking care of me. I woke up & she was laying across my head!!! When I woke up, at first I was startled! I couldn’t seem to move my head! Then, as I fully awakened, I saw her laying horizontally across my head!! What a relief!! She was trying so hard to help me feel better!!
    When we are out of town or on vacation and I get a migraine, the first thing I reach for is Roxy!! I hate having migraines away from home! Our beloved dogs do know what we migraine sufferers are feeling and will not leave our sides!! They really do make a difference!!
    As I said earlier, our baby is 15 years old! We’re so thankful to still have her!! She was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease 4 months ago. I honestly don’t know what I will do without her!! I know she doesn’t have much time left, so every day with her is cherished!! Especially the days a migraine attacks and she won’t leave my side!!
    I have been very blessed!!
    It sounds like I’m not the only one with a very special caregiver!! This story really hit home with me!!
    Thank you for sharing!! I hope you have a migraine free day!!

  • Anne
    4 years ago

    that’s so lovely and such a great idea! That 20 minutes in enough time to prepare for an attack or maybe even lessen one. How are you going to train your dog? Can you suggest any reading materials? I’m going to be getting a dog and it would be great if they could help me like this.

  • d1454p
    4 years ago

    I had a wonderful dog, Cabo, who passed away a few years ago, at a young dog. She was a great dog! She was a mutt, maybe terrier and poodle! She has long curly hair! She seemed to be in tune with me and knew when I had a migraine. She would lick, usually the left, side of my face. She put enough pressure on my skin that, if it wasn’t a full blown migraine, it went away. She would always stay with me during the episodes. Wish she was still here!

  • spryor
    4 years ago

    That is very tender. I love my sweet girls (1 yellow – 1 golden lab). Neither of them are service dogs. The 10 year old was a search and rescue and a great ‘protector’ but the 3 year old is the tender hearted one. She’s the one to make sure the family needs are met. She won’t go to bed until both my husband and I are in bed. We’ve trained her to sleep at our feet. My anxiety gets terrible during an attach – it’s vestibular and I can hear every sound my house makes. It is such a comfort to have her there to let me know the sounds are normal and not something to be nervous about. She loves to climb up on the over stuffed chair and sit like a head rest around my neck and shoulders. Often I can’t lay down as my head feels like it’s laying on cement no matter how soft the pillow. Leaning against her I can feel her breath and her heart beating and it’s really a comfort. Having a dog around especially when you’re not feeling good is such a blessing. I’m glad you have Butters

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