Finding My Perfect Canine Companions

Last updated: September 2023

Only four years of my childhood didn’t include a dog. Growing up with dogs of all sizes, I couldn’t imagine life without at least one. Almost every extended family member had dogs as well. Dogs were a natural part of my life. Although I know the truth, I like to believe that two of my childhood dogs were not surrendered but instead went on to live extraordinary lives with the police department and on a farm like my parents told me. That heartbreak made me vow that any animal I chose to adopt would be with me until death did us part.

Did I have a dog at the beginning of my PsA journey?

When I was first diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, we had a relatively large dog. He was an older Australian Shephard, Border Collie mix. A year before my diagnosis, we rescued him from a shelter. He was the sweetest dog. But as my PsA symptoms became worse and old age took its toll on his hips, I struggled to care for him, so the decision to put him down was made. My heart broke, and I swore our family would have no more dogs unless my health improved. But you know what they say, NEVER say NEVER!

How did I get my Chihuahua?

About a decade later, a friend of mine was dying from cancer. During her final months, I would spend hours at her house several times a week. Some days we did nothing but hold hands and watch House Hunters on HGTV. Other days, I listened to her life story while my daughter played with her dogs. On good days, my daughter and I would take my friend in her wheelchair and her youngest Chihuahua for a walk.

As her final days approached, she began rehoming her five dogs and asked me to take the youngest Chihuahua. As much as I didn’t want the responsibility of caring for another dog while battling multiple chronic illnesses, I couldn’t say no to my friend.

Was it easier to care for a small dog?

Caring for a small dog was much easier than caring for our former large dog. Even though she was only two years old, she had no problem spending her days in bed while I flared. The best part has been that although she is much older now, she only asks to be let out to go potty twice daily. I hit the jackpot with this dog!

This little spitfire won my heart. She is the perfect companion for someone like me who spends most of their time in bed. The only thing missing was another dog to keep her company while we hung out at Disneyland.

How did my Chihuahua react to the loss of my cat?

A few years ago, my comfort cat passed away in my arms. Rocky was 21 years old and had been with me from the beginning of my diagnosed chronic life. That cat knew me and my body like no one else. He pointed out the left-behind fallopian tube a few months after my hysterectomy. In comparison, it took medical professionals two years to find that same source of pain. By the time of Rocky’s death, our Chihuahua had shifted alliances and chosen my husband as her favorite human. She still liked me on flare days but preferred hanging out with him.

Did we get another pet?

Not wanting to have the decision process of choosing our next dog muddled by emotion, I waited a couple of years. Ready to bring a new pup into the fold, I started stalking our local shelter’s website. I had a few breeds in mind—small enough to pick up and basically known for being old lady dogs. But all thought and reason went out the window when I stumbled upon their last chance page. These dogs were slated to be put down if not adopted by that day.

Did we bring home an active big dog?

It figures that when I decided it was the day to adopt, a two-year-old German Shephard was placed on death row. I had to see him. During our meeting, he didn’t jump, bark, or act aggressively in any manner. Instead, he spent the entire visit next to me with his head in my lap as I sat on my rollator. I thought maybe I was wrong about not wanting another big dog. As you may have already guessed, he came home with us.

Was it the right decision?

Yes. Although I sometimes wonder if another small dog would have been better, this big boy's characteristics make him a perfect fit. No matter how nasty our Chihuahua is to him, our giant German Shepherd never reacts. Between his time on the streets and at the shelter, he has no desire to escape our backyard or home.

Another positive aspect is that he forces me to move my body throughout the day. Not so great when I am flaring and nobody else is home, but I have survived so far. He requires a strict schedule that helps me adhere to my chronic illness management plan. Nobody forgets to eat lunch with him around!

Even with all the training we have and continue to do with him, my decision to adopt him wouldn’t change. He reminds not just me but our entire household of the importance of patience. His life before us was rough. And just as I am still learning how to live with psoriatic arthritis, he is still learning how to live with a family who loves and will never harm him.

Is there a perfect breed?

Is there a perfect breed for people with psoriatic arthritis? I don’t know. I love my little dog just as much as the big boy. Not that a small dog cannot develop health issues and die young, but they tend to have longer life spans. Knowing that hip problems are common with larger dogs, I have mentally prepared myself for the possibility that the little one outlives him.

What breed of dog(s) do you have? And have you found certain breeds easier to care for than others?

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