‘You Two’: The Therapeutic Power of Pets for CF Patients
The song “You Two” from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” inspired my dream of adopting twins from a young age. To this day, I’m not sure if the kids in the musical were written to be mere siblings, but I took them to be twins all the same. I simply didn’t know the plot twist that would emerge in my lifetime: My adopted twins are dogs.
After my bilateral lung transplant in June 2019, a result of my 26-year decline with cystic fibrosis, I was feeling a bit lost. I had so much love to give to a potential little one, but I was struggling with my identity and limitations as a post-transplant patient. I spent a few weeks looking at dogs that were available for adoption on social media and easily fell in love with them.
One day in September 2019, a mere four months after my surgery, I asked my husband to talk me out of getting a dog. He clearly did a terrible job because he persuaded my mother and me that we should all go to the animal shelter.
I’m not a stranger to dogs. My family had a golden beagle, Penny, but she passed when I was a baby. When I begged my mom for a dog at age 10, she and I began to hoard Yorkshire terriers. We had four Yorkies throughout my childhood. They are one of the few breeds considered to be hypoallergenic because they have hair, not fur. Taking my respiratory infections into consideration, we wanted to approach the whole pet thing with extreme caution. Each passed after 16 years of life.
Flash forward to September 2019, and my husband, my mom, and I found ourselves in front of the shelter in South Jersey, and I was impatient. There was a 13-week-old puppy available, a mix of German shepherd and black lab, and she looked like Scooby-Doo. “Jinkies, gang!” I exclaimed to my husband’s cringing disapproval, but subconscious consensus. To our surprise, two puppies caught our attention — the one that looked like Scooby-Doo, and another who peacefully sunbathed in the corner of the kennel.
We requested a separate area with the two puppies, a place where the five of us could meet, play, and observe. The Scooby puppy immediately sneezed in my eyes and stole my sunglasses. She had to jump several feet in the air to make this transaction. Despite my lengthy history of respiratory trauma, my anxiety and I were estranged in that moment. I laughed in the face of the sneeze because all I felt was joy. That puppy was “[s]omeone to share joy or despair with;/ whichever betides you.”
The second puppy, the sunbather, immediately started digging a hole in the dirt. My family’s eyes met and communicated a moment of panic. Cystic fibrosis patients are advised to limit interactions with soil because it produces germs like Pseudomonas, which can cause major lung scarring. Transplant patients are advised to avoid soil altogether for the same reason. In short, I should stop to smell the “65 roses” — a phrase that means CF, originating from the way children often mistakenly pronounce cystic fibrosis — but not literally inhale it.
My husband removed the puppy from the dirt and handed her to me. It was the first time my family ignored the “Ten Commandments” of post-transplant life, two of which dictate no soil and no germs. It was a much-needed break from my overburdened list of not-to-dos.
“Let’s get both,” my mother exclaimed. My and my husband’s eyes widened with shock. Fast forward to 2:50 p.m., and the three of us were excitedly shoving dog products into a stacked PetSmart cart, apologizing for the last-minute purchases.
“So, Roxy for the tan one and Lucy for the black one,” the cashier confirmed. We all nodded as he printed our puppies’ nametags and sent us on our way.
Lucy — now Lucy Goosey Apple Kohr — has therapy dog tendencies. Her powerful tail eagerly slaps me throughout the day, and she knows when I require a weighted blanket made up of her. Roxy — now Roxy Par Kohr — greets everyone with four backward hops and a song. The poor thing also suffers from anxiety, but that just means more cuddles for me.
Pets were ill-advised for CF patients in the early 2000s, so I’m thankful I get to spend my days soaking in their love. I often question if I need them more than they need me, even if I must pick up their poop with a gloved hand. My dogs inspire me to “do for, muddle through for,” especially in the face of ongoing, infection-related battles. Every morning when I wake, I sigh a breath of “nebulizers already?” Then, I turn to my dogs and ask myself:
“What makes the battle worth the fighting?/ … You two.”
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today 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 Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.