My Dog Keeps Me Laughing and Warm — a Remedy for Raynaud’s

Columnist Lisa Weber and her dog Tebow are the perfect match

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by Lisa Weber |

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If a dog could have Raynaud’s phenomenon, my Tebow would be the one to have it. His tiny frame has the thinnest white coat that barely covers him. His pink skin is visible through his fur. And, like me, he’s always seeking out warm spots to cuddle up in.

Sometimes I can’t find him because he’s wedged himself between the pillows on the couch. I get it, though. I always cover myself in blankets and socks when I’m lounging around.

My little lap warmer

My little fellow recently got his summer shave-down, and he’s struggling. I’m outnumbered 3-to-1 in our family, so our air conditioner is always set to arctic freeze. The poor guy walks around shivering if I don’t keep him covered with his sweater. While it makes sense for me, due to Raynaud’s, to strategically place gloves, space heaters, and blankets around the house, I never thought I’d be making it a habit to dress my dog to protect him from the cold.

I can’t lie, though — he’s the perfect pet for me. The minute I sit down, he’ll leap up to be my lap warmer. Or, I’ll become his belly warmer? It’s a mutually beneficial relationship either way.

Of course, this corky little dude will take it one more step and use his paw to tap me on the chest until I lift the blanket. His spot is always underneath the covers, curled up on my legs or belly. I love this routine because his body helps me fight off a Raynaud’s attack faster than any other resource I have.

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Endless humor

Yet while my body enjoys my dog’s warmth, my lungs can’t stand his adorable corkiness.

Imagine this scenario: My 12-pound poodle mix is wearing an oversized gray sweater and is curled up on my lap, underneath my heavy sherpa blanket. The doorknob on our front door begins to turn, and his Spiderman-like senses spring him into high alert. He desperately searches for an opening to escape the blanket, while I frantically try to release him from the cocoon I’ve created around us. I giggle at the sight of his head bopping up and down under the blanky.

Next, his head emerges, and his ears are flipped inside out and flopping backward. He looks confused, like he’s lost all sense of direction. My giggle grows, moving slowly down to my belly.

My dog next tries to take a step forward but flops awkwardly on his face and rolls onto his side. I notice he has managed to get all but one of his paws stuck. Tucked inside his sweater, his legs are scratching for freedom and his body is rolling around on the couch. He looks like a seal stuck in a watermelon! My giggle turns into a full-blown, uncontrollable belly laugh.

Funny, until it isn’t

This is all fun and games until it causes a violent coughing fit. Laughter doesn’t go well with interstitial lung disease. It stimulates the inflammation in the bottom lobes of my lungs and causes spasms. In response, I plunge into a coughing fit.

The dry, raspy, wheezing cough sounds like I’ve smoked two packs of cigarettes. Then it morphs into a mucus-filled hacking cough that sounds like when a drink of water goes down the wrong pipe. Finally, it ends with gurgling howls that sound like I’m vomiting air bubbles.

The entire episode can last up to 15 minutes, which is just long enough to remind me that I need to control my laughter. This is because it triggers a painful burning sensation that goes on for hours, but also because I’m embarrassed that others are forced to see the unfolding chaos, a look of sheer terror on their faces.

A different approach

I wouldn’t trade my perfect pup for anything. Tebow and Oakley, his poodle mix sister, bring me so much joy and happiness. Plus, they’re incredible hand warmers on a cold night.

But I will trade my deep belly laughs for a more controlled, boring chuckle. I will fight back the urge to fully let myself go in joyful moments.

It’s a bit sad that I can’t laugh openly and without concern. I miss the sound of my own laughter. But I must remind myself that scleroderma hasn’t stolen my laughter — I still experience the same joy and happiness in my heart. It just sounds a little different now.

Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.


Chadrick Bethley avatar

Chadrick Bethley

One of your last post you talked about improve Lung Function is that still the case?

Lisa Weber avatar

Lisa Weber

Hi Chadrick,

Yes, my lungs are still doing better. But of course there’s still damage- that’s why laughing sends me into coughing fits.

The inflammation is still a fire we are trying to put out. The good news is, the medications are not allowing the inflammation to do more damage!

I hope you’re doing well and wish you all the best.


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