An unlikely walking companion helps me improve my wellness

How I'm motivating myself, handling my allergies, and being a good neighbor

Jennifer Lynne avatar

by Jennifer Lynne |

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Last year, at the Hemophilia Federation of America‘s Mild Matters Summit in Oklahoma, I attended a session led by physical therapist Nancy Durben that left a lasting impact. Durben guided a group on a leisurely walk, urging us to savor the experience — to relish the sound of leaves crunching beneath our feet, feel the gentle breeze, and fully immerse ourselves in the present moment.

Living with both hemophilia B and von Willebrand disease, I’ve always recognized and valued the positive impact that walking can have on my well-being. But more specifically, the practice also affects crucial health needs of mine, such as joints, muscle strength, and weight management — essential considerations for all those who manage bleeding disorders. Despite this awareness, however, finding the time and committing to walking have challenged me.

Enter an opportunity.

Recently, my beloved neighbor, a spirited 89-year-old woman, broke her hip. Before the accident, she used to walk over 2 miles daily, thanks to her loyal companion, Stewart. As her dog, Stewart holds a special place in her heart and is, without a doubt, her cherished baby.

As I’m allergic to both cats and dogs, I don’t consider myself an animal person. Petting a dog necessitates that I immediately wash my hands, and entering a cat’s home is simply out of the question. The mere presence of these furry friends can trigger my red and swollen eyes, accompanied by hives adorning my body.

Navigating the world of cat and dog enthusiasts can be challenging for those of us with allergies. If I refuse to pet a neighbor’s dog, for instance, pet owners may misconstrue it as a personal rejection. I vividly recall a dinner party where I spent time with a supposedly hypoallergenic dog. Despite assurances, the dog’s affectionate licking left me with welts akin to hives. It reinforced my belief that there’s no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog.

My walking companion

Recognizing my need to incorporate more walking into my routine and my neighbor’s need for a dog walker, we’ve found a solution that benefits both of us. Despite my allergies, I’ve committed to walking Stewart twice a day, regardless of the weather. It’s an arrangement that promotes my well-being and supports my neighbor during her recovery.

Stewart is a fantastic dog. He respects my boundaries, never attempting to lick or jump on me. He doesn’t mind that I don’t touch him. This unspoken arrangement between us ensures that Stewart gets the exercise he needs while I’m powerfully motivated to prioritize regular walks.

At times, my bleeding disorders pose challenges to my physical activity. My foot tends to swell, and my knee now demands the support of a brace. Despite these obstacles, a simple walk with Stewart and spending time outdoors consistently improve my mood and even bring me joy.

I’m reminded of Durben’s wise counsel: Be present, cherish the small joys, and take life one step at a time.

Note: Hemophilia 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 another 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 Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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