People with multiple sclerosis (MS) find help for dogs

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) find help for dogs

Debbie Pragt has MS with multiple sclerosis and moves around with the aid of a mobility scooter.

Sometimes, when her symptoms are particularly severe, she struggles to move around her home.

The company of her two dogs is what brings her joy and helps her get through each day.

She is in good company - about 63 per cent of Australians are pet owners.

She needs help caring for the dogs at times, and recently discovered a service that provides that kind of support when she can't.

She wants such services to be rolled out to other parts of the country.

My MS has gotten to the point where I can't really stand or walk from my bed to the toilet, so I have this little chair here to help me get from my bed to the bathroom, Ms Pragt said.

She said that my dogs are my children, they're my family.

She said her dogs showed signs that they could tell when she was having a particularly difficult day.

This sounds strange, but when I fall, they'll be intently watching me, waiting for me to move - it's really supportive because I know that at least they care, she said.

If they weren't here with me, I really wouldn't have the inclination to get up any time quickly. Ms Pragt said there were times when she struggled to care for her pets.

My MS was particularly bad. She said I haven't been able to feed them properly.

She found out about the service Furry Favours, which provides support to people living with disabilities who have pets, and changed everything.

The business is run by Mel Bayley and aims to provide affordable rates to people who need help so that they can keep their pets, even at the most difficult times.

If I didn't have Mel, I wouldn't be able to keep her, she said.

Because a lot of providers don't care about the dogs, it's not part of what they do, but what Mel does is amazing. The dogs now have someone to pick up and care for them in the backyard when Ms Pragt can't, thanks to Ms Bayley.

Ms Bayley said her service filled a gap in the disability support sector.

She said she had supported people with a wide range of needs, including a family of people with autism whose elderly mother had been caring for their pet and was concerned for their future once she herself passed away.

She said that you can see the look in their mother's eyes to know that there is hope for their vulnerable children once they've passed.

We held their hand when they needed it.

It's just decency and it's lacking today. Concerns for those who are avoiding care for the sake of their pets.

There is huge demand for services like hers and that lack of support is having negative effects on people's health, according to Ms Bayley.

Their health is compromised. She said she had recently cared for two dogs that needed medication twice a day while their owner was in hospital for heart surgery. She said she was the only option for him, aside from giving up the animals.

Not everyone can afford kennelling, and not everyone has family back-up, so this is leading to a community problem, she said.

I'd like to see this rolled out in Australia-wide, because it's absolutely necessary for the vulnerable and the elderly. Ms Pragt said she wanted disability support services to expand to include pet care.

Other people haven't had the chance to meet Mel, and their providers don't do this, and I think that's just wrong.