I’ve always loved animals; from the smallest bugs to the biggest mammals. So having pets was an obvious goal but I’d never anticipated how it would affect my life with ankylosing spondylitis.
I started to feel AS symptoms when I was only 15 years old. It gradually made my daily life more and more difficult. Of course, I went to the doctor and he told me it was ‘growing pains’ and that I should do more exercise. This didn’t add up and made me really upset since I considered myself a very ‘sporty’ girl. After that I even started to blame myself for not being active enough.
By the end of that year, our family welcomed a new member: the African grey parrot, Jordi. He was only four months old at that time. I took care of him and Jordie grew into a beautiful and clever adult parrot.
Being responsible for such a little, delicate being made me forget about how helpless the pain was making me feel. When I was with him nothing else mattered and knowing that I’m the most important person in someone’s life made me feel better with myself. When I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even stand, he was there for me. Sometimes he repeated the words I taught him or did silly things that made me laugh. The life was better with my little companion.
Around that time I started dating my boyfriend. He was a proud owner of two dogs: Taca and Mixa. Both were quite old but it didn’t change the fact that spending time with them was magical. Over time they accepted and fell in love with me. We used to go hiking, take long walks and go to the beach.
They encouraged me to go for walks, even on the painful days they were good excuse to stay active. On the days when pain was unbearable they always stayed by my side. As they grew old, they had pain problems too; I felt that I could identify with them, we understood and took care of each other. In 2014 Mixa sadly passed away, it clearly made Taca upset as she seemed to grow older with every single day. That changed when we rescued a 2 months old puppy, Halloween, mix of French Bulldog and Pitbull. After that Taca came back to her old self and lived her last days like a teenage dog.
Soon after we adopted Halloweem she started to have serious health problems and almost passed away. Even during those darkest days when she was fighting for her life, Halloween always stayed by my side helping me with my pain. Now, she is such an active dog, even when we’re at home she always wants to play and when I play with her the pain disappears, I just forget about it.
Eventually, I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. I’m on biologic therapy now and finally starting to feel like a normal person.
Living with AS, you have to stay active and pets can be a great support. Also, your animals will faithfully stay by your side. Pets always listen and they never judge – something you can’t always say about humans. My animals help me to stay strong not only for myself but also for them: they need me and I need them.
People can be very unsympathetic with their ignorant comments, useless advice and lack of understanding. It can really bring you down and push into thinking that you are alone. But with your animals you’re never alone.
Having pets is the best treatment ever in my experience. But even if you can’t own an animal, don’t feel alone. You aren’t, there are a lot of people with the same condition around world that would be happy to talk, give you advice and share their story with you.
23-year-old Marga comes from Mallorca, Spain, she’s got a degree in Biology and starts her post-graduate course in Marine Ecology soon. In the future she wants to travel the world, help endangered species, deal with invasive species and rescue wild animals. She also lives with her pets: an African grey parrot Jordi and pitbull-frenchie Halloween that help her to cope with her ankylosing spondylitis.