How a 3-legged pup inspired me to start accepting life with ALS

A columnist channels the energy and attitude of some special dogs

Dagmar Munn avatar

by Dagmar Munn |

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ALS challenges our sense of self and ability to accept change. However, the triggers that motivate us toward acceptance can be different for each patient.

Recently, on the ALS News Today Forums, we’ve been having a lively response to the question, “What is the most difficult thing for you to do physically, now that you live with ALS?” Among the many replies were having difficulty breathing, asking for help, and losing independence. Other forum members identified moving, speaking, and swallowing as being the most difficult for them.

My ALS symptoms affect my movement and speech and prevent me from drinking thin liquids. Although we share having to live with these daily challenges, we’re not all in the same phase of acceptance. Many comments also included feelings of bitterness, frustration, and being seen as different — all feelings I experienced during my first year with ALS. How I eventually conquered them came from an unlikely source.

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A doggy inspiration

Shortly after my diagnosis in 2010, I watched a TV program featuring an animal rescue organization that was rehabilitating dogs with catastrophic injuries. One young dog had to have a hind leg amputated and was learning to run with only three legs. Another young pup’s hind legs were partially paralyzed and had been outfitted with a special wheeled body brace giving the pup the ability to roll from place to place.

Certainly, the medical innovations were impressive, but what held my attention was how these two dogs interacted with a group of “normal” dogs. The two didn’t act embarrassed or self-conscious of their disabilities, nor did they avoid mingling with the pack. And the other dogs accepted these two as if nothing were amiss. The two pups joined the ongoing wrestling and doggy play, proving they still were fun-loving dogs at heart.

At that moment, I decided to channel the attitudes of the pup on wheels and the three-legged dog. I realized that even though my symptoms changed how I would navigate through life, they didn’t change my sense of self. I was, after all, still me.

That’s the thing about ALS

ALS may slow down my movements, force me to use a wheeled walker to get around, require I thicken my beverages with a special powder, and make me slur my words. But I don’t feel awkward or insecure, or worry that people are judging me as less than. I’ve accepted my difficulties and adopted the necessary adaptations. My focus is on my projects, family, and friends.

Nothing is easy with ALS, and it’s important to remember that attitude has everything to do with how much you can enjoy your life. I remind myself that I can’t always avoid the changes and difficulties that ALS brings, but I can change how I react to them.

Remember, I believe we can live well while living with ALS.

Note: ALS 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 ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


Johnny5 avatar


I concentrate on the blessings and not the curse. There are many blessings in life, and only one curse. When I have gratitude for the blessings it makes the curse so small.

Never Quit.

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

I agree Johnny5, in fact I don't even see ALS as a "curse." No one, and nothing is punishing me. ALS is my body acting out of kilter. So, I focus on my dy-to-day living and stay positive.

Donna Townsend avatar

Donna Townsend

You are an inspiration to me, thank you for sharing your journey. I just passed my first year since diagnosis. Some days are good some not so good. I am adjusting a little more each day. I can still walk with a walker but when I leave the house I use my chair(trying to stay off the floor, lol). I consider myself lucky because I am a veteran and get awesome care through the VA. God Bless us all, stay safe and take care

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Thank you Donna

Araksya Boyajyan avatar

Araksya Boyajyan

Hy Dagmar, I have pma for 10 and haf years, first my legs weakened, and last november my hands begins, how is your hands, when begins, my legs and hands begins togeter, very simmetricaly

Araksya Boyajyan avatar

Araksya Boyajyan

Hy Dagmar iam 66 years old, my simptoms begins 10 and half years ago, first my legs last year my hands begins, legs and hands begins very simmetricaly,
How's your hands begins, you can us your hands
Thank you

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Hello Araksya, my symptoms began in my feet and lower legs. My hands continue to be OK, although I am careful not to overwork them. I do follow a program of regular, gentle exercise every day - - it has helped me maintain my mobility. Dagmar

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