Howdy from a Broke Down Homesteader!

I have been a very active person my entire life. I have been a homesteader for most of my adult life both in the city and now on a small acreage. I love to garden and raise poultry as well as cook, can, preserve and make my own soaps. I also love to swim and was a professional riding instructor and horse trainer in my past.

Enter arthritis.

I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis in about 2007, but looking back I realize that I have suffered with it for many years before being diagnosed. I am one of the people that has very limited skin issues. I may have a patch or two on my body at a time and usually under the size of a quarter. I was shocked when I learned that those little itchy spots were indicators of my autoimmune disorder.

I started treatment for arthritic symptoms (my doc then thought it was just a result of my active life) in the mid 1990's. When I finally went to a specialist I was flaring up to the point I could hardly move at times and in lots of pain. The specialist tried several medications on me. Methotroxiate reacted badly with me. I had vision changes and breathing issues. Then we tried Avara.

Thins went great on the Avara for quite a while. I was feeling so much better I though we had found a solution. Then I started having numbness under my toes. At first it was like having your socks bunched up under your toes in your shoe. I told the doc. He referred me to a neurologist and HE diagnosed me with peripheral neuropathy cause unknown.

I continued on the Avara and the numbness spread. Finally I was numb to a point over my knees! At that point my husband was on the computer doing a little research and found a study linking the Avara to the neuropathy. With further checking I discovered that it is a rare documented side effect of the drug.

Lucky me.

After stopping the Avara my nerves did begin to heal some. According to my NEW neurologist the Avara strips off the coating of the nerve. Sometimes it re-grows, but usually it does not. Currently I have the neuropathy in only my feet. So that just adds another fun dimension to the daily fun we face. It got to the point that I am not able to work about 2 years ago.

But ... I am not going to let the arthritis totally win. I used to have a huge garden, now I have raised beds and containers. I used to do lots of physical work around the homestead. Now I have a service dog.

I am glad to find this site and hope that you all can help me with the transitions that I am still facing in this journey. I hope I can be of service to you as well.


Welcome, Farmfresh! What an interesting story, except for the fact that it has happened to you. :frowning: So many of us will relate to the length of time you suffered before even being diagnosed. Awful to look back at that period of your life, isn’t it?

You have a service dog! Do tell us about him/her. What does s/he do for you besides providing love and companionship? I think you are the first person on this board to have one!

In my many wanderings in life we always had dogs. When I was a kid we raised and showed German Shepherds, mostly in the obedience classes. I have been training dogs and other animals since I was a little kid. When this arthritis stuff started getting bad we had just gotten a new pup as a pet. One day when he was really little I had the bright idea instead of training him only basic obedience I would see just what he could learn to do to be a help to me. He was a wonderful pupil!

My dogs name is Sage.

He is basically a mutt. He is half German Shepherd and half Siberian Husky. He is very loving and empathetic, wicked smart and lazy to the bone, which is a very important quality for a service dog since they spend a lot of time laying around waiting to be useful. Being a mutt has come with a price however. Sage has hip dysplasia which he would have been screened for IF he had been professionally trained. Remember I got a mutt pup as a pet. He became a service dog by me simply messing with him. Knowledge is power however. Since I know that he has issues I have been very careful with him. He is a young dog and so far has had very little problems with his hips, but I know that one day he will need hip replacement surgery to the tune of about $4,000. He has a savings account with about half of the amount ready for when he needs to use it. The $4,000 sounds like a lot to spend on a dog, but when you consider that a finished mobility dog often costs in excess of $10,000 (!) my mutt is still a bargain.

What tasks does he perform for me? Lots! He is trained to a lazer pointer and can retrieve whatever I point at. He can retrieve the telephone when it rings. He brings my cane when I need it or my water bottle when I ask. He can open the freezer door for me (which is hard for me to do sometimes) when I need my ice packs. He opens the chicken coop door in the mornings when I am still too stiff to walk. He can open the door for me if my hands are full. He cleans house! The actual term is that he removes trip hazards, but what it means is that he will pick up anything out of place on the floor and bring it to me. (he can be a little OCD about keeping the house clean. LOL) He helps me with the laundry. I can basically sit by the laundry basket and he will pick up the dirty laundry and bring it to me to put in the basket. Then he can drag the laundry basket to where I need it.

Some tasks I use him for on a very limited basis, because of his hips. In the garden he will pull a sled filled with my bag of mulch or straw bale out to where I need it. He can carry packs and has often accompanied me to the farm market to carry my purchases. He is trained to brace and will support me if I need him. For example he can help me out of a too soft chair or up off the ground if I fall down. He is great as a living cane if I go someplace (like a park) where a lot of walking is necessary. He provides stability and forward motion (he will pull you up a hill if you need help) I have done quite a bit of shopping with him, but the slick floors in most stores cause him problems when combined with his hairy Husky feet. Like walking with socks on slick tile it stresses his joints. In practice I find most stores I go to have power carts anyway or I don't go there. With my neuropathy standing is a problem some days, so any cane is not enough. If I am too bad I stay home.

For a "home trained mutt" Sage is a VERY important part of my life. I don't know how I would get by without his help. He also provides that kind of support that only a dog could do. The other night I was up in the night in great pain. My hands were very swollen and I had finally hit that emotional wall. I started crying. My boy was right there to help again. He washed away my tears and tongue massaged my swollen hands until I was able to relax and go back to bed. I love my boy.

Can you send me/ post the link to the study please and thank you.

Welcome Farmfresh. Lovely to meet you.I love hearing about your Mutt too. Sage - What an very appropriate name for such a caring support. I have 2 tiny pups. An 5 yo Jack Russel x Maltese (Chloe) and a 1 yo Maltese x Shih Tzu x Silkie x Australian ball of fluffy insanity (Ame - short for Amethyst). Neither of them are particularly helpful, but they keep me smiling and give unending cuddles :)

Farmfresh, I’m in LOVE! Your Sage (what a perfect name) sounds like he’s the sunshine in your life. What a wonderful companion and helpmate. Thanks for telling your story!

LOL Actually he does!

sybil said:

Great to 'meet you' Farmfresh. I'm thinking of trading my husband in for a service dog - do they snore?

Do a google search of "neuropathy leflunomide" and you will come up with lots of info.
Pub Oxford Journal of Rheumotology Case Studies

RX List

Kirsten said:

Can you send me/ post the link to the study please and thank you.

Sage enjoys it. He is very proud when he does the jobs I ask. He is also perceptive enough to do some jobs BEFORE I ask. Sometimes he brings me my water bottle on his own (I guess I look thirsty lol) or sees me struggling to get out of a chair and either comes to me and braces or brings my cane.

All he asks in return is lots of love, attention and pets ... AND the occasional cookie. When I was training him I tried a number of fancy treats for rewards, but his favorite reward is the tiny dog size Retriever dog biscuits from Tractor Supply. It is so funny seeing a huge dog like him eating those tiny little bones. <grin>

sybil said:

Ah well. I guess Sage is worth his weight in gold despite that! Our last dog was a pampered pooch, but then he was old as the hills and decrepit when we got him, so he deserved a rest.

I wouldn't need a service dog as such, but your post made me think that if we do get a young 'un one day it'd be good to train him or her to be of some use generally. Ideally I'd like one that could find my glasses but just picking stuff up off the floor could be pretty useful. Dogs like working too, don't they?

Farmfresh said:

LOL Actually he does!

sybil said:

Great to 'meet you' Farmfresh. I'm thinking of trading my husband in for a service dog - do they snore?