Staying Afloat When My Dogs Wake Barking

Suffering the curse of psoriatic arthritis, chronic Lyme disease, and dietary sensitivities, inflammation often likes to toy with me. When it does, I’m forced to play the guessing game of which disease is tripping me up. Sometimes, it literally binds my feet.

Beached in the bedroom

There are mornings when greeting the day is a rough haul. I swing my legs over the side of the bed, yet can’t touch my feet to the floor. Pain grips my insoles (and soul) like a cruel joke, shackling me to the prison island of my bed surrounded by a mocking mote of cushy carpeting.

Psoriatic Arthritis - Feet

Finding the sandy lining

But I refuse to think of my bed as a prison. In fact, my bed is a sanctuary ship not lost at sea, but safely moored high above the carpet color of soft, warm sand. And it’s salvation lies with Shamus, the napping Newfoundland next to me.

Ahoy, matey!

Meet Shamus, my Shipmate of the Sheets, my Captain Cuddler, my Sleeper-in-Chief who never judges or complains when I lay back for a minute, curling and unfurling my toes until, like a rusty latch, they dislodge and finally swing freely on their hinges. He offers a comforting sigh and watches through one cracked eye as I try, once again, to support my own weight upon feet that bark like agitated dogs, dogs nothing like my sweet Shamus.

Shoving off

I ease my way two decks down, holding onto the rail, limping toward the kitchen/galley. Shamus hears his food hit the bowl. Only then does he dive from our bed’s bow and, with thunking paws that sound like they’re doggy paddling in deep waters, does he “swim” down the stairs toward his treasure trough.

This regatta is one race that Shamus will never win, no matter how swiftly his paws take him. For whatever reason, he’s decided to give me the long lead. And I take it because — who doesn’t prefer to start the day with a compassionate victory?

Charting a cheerful course

If this sounds too much like surreal sunny sailing, it’s true. But positive perspective is a choice that takes practice. On more occasions than I care to admit, I’ve cursed the pain, groaned and complained, but I’ve learned to sometimes find comfort in having a good friend sit silently by through my terrible, rotten, no-good experience.

Shamus is my non-judgmental companion, the friend who always empathizes without pity (perhaps because he has his own physical limitations.) He doesn’t offer repeated advice that I’ll ignore out of frustration. Nor does he expect me to do anything other than what I can. He merely helps me to see the calm that can exist when we, as humans, learn to take what’s handed to us and face it one moment at a time.

O Captain! My Captain!


Animals don’t live in the future. They live in the now, and can show us how, if we try to see the world through their eyes.

I’m always working on that, Buddy.
Thank you.

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.


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