January was National Walk Your Dog Month. Overshadowed this year, by our concerted effort to mitigate the spread and effects of the global pandemic. However, the one leisure pursuit we have been consistently afforded through COVID-19 is enjoying the great outdoors. So National Walk Your Dog Month takes on more meaning as a way to connect to nature and improve our wellbeing through the lockdown. It certainly has great significance to me, since my Labrador, Boo was the early motivation for Walking My Way To Stroke Recovery
My Lab is a simple chap. He lives for his walks, his food and his love of swimming. In return, he gives me his unconditional love and devotion. Despite living with my daughter and partner, often we are like ships in the night. So, it has come to pass, that my dog and I spend many an hour mutually enjoying one another’s companionship. My dog’s wellbeing was just the motivation I needed to start walking my way to stroke recovery. Often a journey into unknown territory, but one I appreciated all the more with my right-hand dog at my side.
My Journey Post Stroke
Following an extended hospital stay, my return home was challenging. The effects of my strokes on my daily life were fairly debilitating. The most basic of activities such as washing and dressing took support and a great deal of physical and mental effort on my part. I had lost my confidence and actively avoided social contact. Looking back, I felt embarrassed by well-meaning pity and fed up with the feigned shock that strokes didn’t happen to people like me. Well, one in four strokes occur in younger people, but I did not want to continuously explain the reasons why it had happened to me. I was also self-conscious of my inability to convey in words what I was thinking, of my lopsided smile and just how much slower I had become. So, I mentally circled a safe place around my home and felt panicked to leave it.
Around this time, something sparked inside me to fight back. I decided to make a deal with my furry friend. If he helped me to get through this, I would take him on his very own doggy holiday to the seaside.
Me and My Boo
Boo is a stickler for routine. He likes his breakfast at 8am and appreciates being out of the house at the latest, by 9. 30am for his morning constitutional. If on occasion, you are running late, he favours his trusty technique of herding you towards the front door. This serves as a gentle reminder of your poor timekeeping.
His routine made certain I was out of bed and dressed every day at a reasonable hour. With his positive influence, I began to change my mindset. Gone were the feelings of why did this happen to me, replaced by the sentiment of feeling lucky to be given another roll of the dice. Our 15-minute block walk became 30 minutes until we resumed our hour-long adventures. Walking both morning and evening helped my cardio fitness, my strength and improved my mindset. Read this ace article about why Pets improve your wellbeing.
Around four months into my recovery, we both grew tired of the same old scenery. We needed new smells and new adventures to maintain our positive resolve. This gave me the push I needed to practise driving short journeys to local parks and woodland. Walking my way to stroke recovery had reached new heights.
With Boo by my side, I rediscovered my place in the dog-walking community. Despite my initial self-consciousness, the more we met fellow dog walkers and chatted, the less awkward I started to feel. No one seemed to notice my quirks, and if they did, they were more interested in their dogs than anything I did or said. Consequently I had courage to rub out the imaginary circle of my comfort zone and start arranging short outings with friends.
Pet therapy and PAT animals have excellent outcomes in a variety of different rehabilitation settings, cutting boundaries from older age to the very young. Having that unconditional acceptance from an animal supports you emotionally. If like me, you are a pet owner, it gives you an incentive to care for them and reduces feelings of isolation. I have a cat and dog who rule the roost in my home and I would not have it any other way. They offer so much companionship and joy, that the least I can do is pamper them.
I kept my promise to Boo and we holidayed by the sea. This photograph taken on our holiday makes me smile since much of the determination and acceptance I needed to find the following my strokes, is down to my dog and our deal. The latest chapter in my recovery is yet to play out, but I’m certain that he will play a supporting role.
We all need help sometimes. Often a gentle nudge in the right direction helps us to enrich our lives. Right at home offer unique and tailored services suited to you. So, if you decide you would like help around the home, or more of your time on hobbies you enjoy, or even want someone by your side in achieving those happiness goals, they can help you with their friendly, personal approach towards home care.
My Role at Right at Home Solent
I’m Rachel and my role as Community Engagement Officer for Right at Home Solent is supporting the positive involvement of clients and the community in their home care experience in Southampton. Through engaging with local people and the relevant organisations, I am building on the values-led approach to home care which sets Right at Home Solent apart from the rest.