My Old Dog Teaches Me a New Trick

Kim Tocker avatar

by Kim Tocker |

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Photo by Kim Tocker

Scleroderma and the Ordinary Girl

One of the many distressing aspects that scleroderma has brought to my life is my immune system’s inability to cope with any illness that comes my way. Part of the problem is that I take mycophenolate to help slow down the progress of my lung issues. Unfortunately, the medication weakens my immune system, and so when I catch a cold, I am forced to rest in my recliner for a couple of weeks.

I have had infections and viral illnesses over the past few months that have rendered me fairly useless, other than honing my skills as an expert rester.

I have found this extremely difficult, particularly mentally. Staying put in a chair for most of my day is frustrating. As life goes on around me, I feel redundant and discontented. When I can’t contribute to life, I begin to question my validity as a person.

On week two of my third bout of illness, boredom and depression began to take over. It was a rainy dark day outside, which wasn’t helping. Before settling into my recliner for the day, I let my old dog Merlin into the lounge to stay warm and dry. I watched him groan as he set his weary bones down to rest, and I realized he was like me in many ways.

Merlin no longer barks to keep away intruders. He is in his twilight years now, and he can’t hear well anymore. He doesn’t have the energy to chase the tennis ball and he is unable to perform many of his old tricks, such as sneaking his way onto our bed when no one is looking.

However, as I watched him amble in, I realized that Merlin is still a valued and cherished member of the family, despite his physical changes. We love him as he is, and although he doesn’t amaze us with his jumps of joy and ball-retrieving stunts, just having him around is still very much appreciated. The slow wag of his tail when the dog biscuits come out, and his wet muzzle on my knee as he comes for cuddles, are some of the wonderful qualities he shares with his former energetic self.

Merlin is still able to find the small pleasures in life. He managed to find a small patch of warmth when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds later that afternoon. As he settled himself down to enjoy the rays, his tail thumped a few times in appreciation. No depression for him — just happy contentment with the small, but enjoyable, offerings that each day brings.

I made myself a cup of tea as he began to snore softly. Despite sore, stiff fingers, I could still manage it. I chatted with a friend on the phone to help her sort out a problem as I sipped my tea while the sun came through the window. My spirit started to heal.  

The trick is to focus on and appreciate what I do have, rather than lamenting about what I do not. Contentment isn’t hard to find when I decide to look for it.

Thanks, Merlin.


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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.


Caroline Auckland avatar

Caroline Auckland

I would like to thank you for your insightful and helpful article. I have to admit that I bust into tears and sobbed my heart out when I had finished reading it, as it described so many of the ways I feel, which I had buried as deep as I could ('denial' has been my crutch for too long - maybe 20+ years ). The feeling of being 'neither useful nor ornamental'is one I have to fight every day, whilst always putting on a happy face. I know , though, that there are so many lovely things in my life children, grandchildren, husband, dogs, beautiful French countryside and more and I think and hope that I'm quite good at giving love to them all, which gives me joy .
Thank you!X

Kim Tocker avatar

Kim Tocker

Hi Caroline, thanks so much for your message. Sadly, a week after I wrote this column Merlin passed away. He had been unwell for some time with nerve issues and arthritis in his back legs, but we were unprepared for his sudden decline, even though the vet had warned us at his last check up that we may only have him for a short while longer. He passed peacefully, and we know we made the right decision at the right time to have him put to sleep. I am so glad you have been able to gain something special from this column. He taught me so much and we miss him dreadfully, but he was such a lovely dog, and we continue to focus on how lucky we were to have him in our family. xxx


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