On Memorial Day of 2005, I was just discharged from the hospital after being treated for an acute onset of Transverse Myelitis. Earlier in the month, I had lost my ability to walk and go to the bathroom on my own. After being discharged from the hospital, I was still unable to walk without help. Unbeknownst to me, during the same day in Western Massachusetts, a litter of Soft Coat Wheaten Terriers were born.
On June 10th of 2005, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I would like to say that I handled it better, but I didn’t. I went into a deep depression. I didn’t want to see my family or friends and I was pushing my wife away. I just wanted to be by myself and wallow in my own misery. I stayed in my depression for another month, falling further and further into the pit of my own despair.
My 29th birthday was on July 15th of 2005 and my wife and family threw me a birthday party even though I didn’t feel like celebrating. After the food and cake, it was time for the presents. The first present I was handed was a book. I thought it was going to be a self-help book for living with a chronic illness or a holistic recipe book. I tore open the wrapping paper and it was a book about the dog breed, Soft Coat Wheaten Terriers. I opened the front cover and there was a hand written note from my wife saying, “A litter was born on Memorial Day and we got you the only male of the litter.”
My heart sank. I had wanted a dog since my German Shepherd, Zack, had passed away six years prior. Only now, I was having trouble walking and had just been diagnosed with MS. I could barely walk, how was I going to walk and take care of a dog?
At that moment, something changed in me. As I looked around the room, I could tell that everyone was waiting for my reaction. As I met eyes with my wife, I could see that she needed me to have the dog more than I ever wanted to get a dog. I grabbed her, hugged her and told her I loved her and promised her on that day that no matter what my MS was doing that I would walk that dog twice a day.
We picked up Ted, our puppy, on July 30th, 2005. I started walking him right away. It has been nine years now and I have kept my promise. We walk over two miles a day and over the past nine years have walked more than 6,500 miles together!
Happy Birthday, Ted! Thank you for keeping me walking every day and not allowing MS to beat me. I love you and could never thank you enough for all you have done for me through this disease process. Cheers to many more years of good health and long walks!
The story of how Matt got Ted is chronicled in Matt’s memoir, The Dog Story: A Journey into a New Life with Multiple Sclerosis.