Living with MS and Four Little Paws

Hello. My name is Paula Stacey and this is my story of how four little paws changed my life.

I am 45 years old and I have Primary Progressive MS - Multiple Sclerosis - a disease that progressively makes me lose my balance, walk into walls, stumble and fall, slur my speech and blur my vision, drain my energy and paralyze my hands and feet. The doctors say I have so many "lesions" on my brain that they can't be counted. So each day for me is different but some days are worse than others. The hardest part is having had to give up a job I loved and now it's quite difficult to cope both emotionally and financially. But I try to stay positive and take one day at a time.

Despite many ups and downs, I now volunteer my time in the community and this summer I went door to door and collected 600 signatures to help campaign to abolish No Pets policies in residential buildings. I truly understand how important pets are to people and how much we need them in our lives, especially when we have few people to give us love and affection.

One thing I am very proud of is having trained and certified my dog Lucia to become a therapy dog through Vancouver ecoVillage. Before I rescued Lucia (Lucy for short), she had lived locked away in a small room having been considered a "nuisance" by her previous owners. She wasn't even potty trained when she first came so I had to start from scratch with her training. I signed her up for beginner classes and then we went on to intermediate and advanced classes. Lucy did so well that I enjoyed taking classes with her. Several people said they thought she'd make an excellent therapy dog because she loved people and attention. I soon found myself taking her to more courses which eventually led to us passing the Canine Good Neighbour (CGN) test and finally the therapy dog exams. After much hard work Lucy became fully certified as a therapy dog. We now volunteer to bring comfort and affection to people in the community. We also visit terminal cancer patients at their homes and go to schools where we help students at exam time. I've been told that our sessions can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol plus relieve stress and anxiety. I'm not sure if that is what actually happens but Lucy and I sure enjoy our visits!

Having rescued, trained and lived with Lucy has had an enormous impact on my life. The truth is, I believe Lucy rescued me. She gets me out walking everyday and meeting new people - I’ve met most of my friends at the dog park. Training Lucy gave us something new to focus on each week. Lucy is also my best friend who makes me laugh and I wake up every day looking forward to our next adventure together.

Having to deal with Multiple Sclerosis is a daily struggle. Despite my body and mind slowly falling apart as time goes on, I haven't given up. Today I am hope and faith. I am strength and wisdom. I am purpose and possibility. It's all I have left.

So I urge you to remember that no matter how tough you think your life is, there’s always someone who has to face challenges that are tougher than yours. I remember that fact each time Lucy and I visit a young girl battling Leukaemia. I encourage you to not give up hope in your struggles and to keep giving back to your community. Giving back is where you give, and then nothing happens. No benefits for you, no recognition, no gift gets sent your way. Your biggest and sole reward is the realization that you’ve made a significant change in someone’s life. And if not “significant” then a positive change nevertheless.

I believe that the measure of a person's life is the impact they have on others. Think globally, act locally I suppose. Plus, giving to others gets you outside of yourself and distracts you from your problems, raises your mood and self-esteem and increases your general sense of happiness.

With love to you ALL with the hope you will grow, change and be the best you can be with or without four little paws to help you.

Paula Stacey

Ps. If you'd like to send me your comments you can reach me via facebook or email

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