The Canine Cure



In my thirty-year career, I’ve suffered the repetitive stress injuries and muscular-skeletal problems that result from overuse of my hands, poor ergonomics and too much sitting. I’ve developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, tendonitis in both hands, and trigger fingers. I’ve had any number of episodes of stiff neck, sore back, locked hips and hunched shoulders, all resulting from too much time sitting at the computer with poor posture. And while I work best in solitude, the downside is that I sometimes suffer debilitating loneliness leading to extreme self-doubt.

I’m fortunate not to have an addictive personality, and I’m not suicidal, but these are mental health risks suffered by many, not just famous writers, mostly dead. In fact, I think it is writing that helps me maintain my mental health. It’s my physical health that has required medical intervention.

I’ve had surgery to correct carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands, as well as trigger-finger release, and I’ve had extensive physical therapy to rehabilitate my hands. I now work at a modified work-station that includes a split keyboard, a foot rest, and a raised screen so that I have optimal posture while at work. To

I rest this ergonomic split keyboard on my lap, with my feet elevated on a step stool, for best working posture.

I rest this ergonomic split keyboard on my lap, with my feet elevated on a step stool, for best working posture.

alleviate the stiff neck, sore shoulders and tired back from too much sitting,

The wood stove.

The wood stove.

I’ve added yoga classes to my exercise routine, greatly improving my core strength and posture. I also get up from my desk every hour to load the wood stove and refresh my tea. But I’m still lonely. Until this week.

This week I’ve discovered a cure for all my occupational ailments: a puppy. Leo is a 14-week old male lab-mix who has rescued me from the doglessness I’ve been suffering since my last canine companion passed in August.

My footstool and the cave under my desk. NB Puppies are hard to photograph!

My footstool and the cave under my desk. NB Puppies are hard to photograph!

First off, he’s adorable and he adores me. Next, he interrupts me at my work to go out and play: we run, we romp, we explore. The activity and fresh air are good for us both. And finally, once he’s played out, he settles down in the cave under my desk, where his presence is a great comfort while I work.

As always, each writer will find a unique way to complete her text on time, in health, with happiness. For me, it’s the canine cure.

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, essayist and educator. She’s the author of the award-winning novel, Into the dll2013Wilderness and a regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio. Luskin leads writing workshops and accepts select projects of prose works-in-progress for developmental editing. Learn more at

27 thoughts on “The Canine Cure

  1. This made for a lovely and warm read, Deborah. I am sure Leo will bring you more health and happiness in days to come. I had gone through a number of unfortunate events in my life, one right after the other. It had be rattled inside-out. Until I found Sage, under a pumpkin patch, waiting to be saved and waiting for his turn to save someone. Life has never been the same again. If you’d like to know Sage a tad bit, do wander off to my post on him:

  2. What a heart-warming post! So glad you found your own “therapy dog.” I worked in brain injury rehabilitation for many years before turning to writing, and one of the things I would recommend for families and individuals was to find a pet as soon as they were able to handle the responsibilities. The love, companionship, and – as you discovered – physical exercise are really such good medicine for body and soul. Of course, sitting on an exercise ball while typing is pretty good stuff, too.

  3. Congratulations on your new addition! Leo is beautiful and looks “write” at home. 😉 Best wishes for continued improvement with your physical discomfort. It’s amazing how fast (in my case) sitting at a desk all day can cause problems. I’ve tried yoga a few times and liked it but I haven’t been able to commit to a routine. I know I should try harder. Thank you for the heart warming post. 🙂

    • Thanks for reading the post! One of the motivations for me to go to yoga is that it’s something I do with other people. Even though we’re each on our own mats, there’s a synergy in the room – and a little chit chat before and after.

  4. This is a wonderful, heartfelt post–thank you for telling us this uplifting story about your challenges and how Leo has come into your life. My writing muse is “Smokey the Wonder Cat,” but I miss my golden retriever, Duffy. Happy writing! 🙂

    • It is my opinion that cats are helpful for keeping a writer at her desk, and dogs are good for getting up and out. And as Groucho Marx said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend; inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

  5. I wouldn’t know what to do without my Beatle Bailey, who is a 25 lb. Lhaso Apso. and 2 cats. You have a wonderful enriching story and animals have a way of taking away the lonliness. Thank you.

  6. Thank you so much for this post! Since I have changed my career from running around to sitting 5 years ago, I suffer the same. (Right now I am sitting in a massage chair!) 😉 I once had a dog and I know walking one 3 times a day would help a lot. But I live with a cat now that’s very happy getting my whole attention. So yoga and table tennis must do the job. But good luck to you and your puppy! 😉

  7. You have the best cure. I adore my dog, but he not longer lives with me (he lives my parents now around the corner keeping them fit and healthy.) I need a new cure.

  8. Many people seem to be rescuing animals from shelters these days. My daughter has two cats and my son and his family have one. My parents and I lived in the country and people were always dumping off dogs, probably because they had outgrown their cuteness or were going to have puppies. These animals make good pets like your dog. It’s a good thing there are shelters and people like you willing to adopt.

  9. Loved this article! It’s so sweet! I’m so grateful for my bunny because I would live alone without her. Sometimes we just need a nudge to get us out of our stupor. It’s good that animals don’t have any fear of rejection. They get us up no matter our attitude.

    I know my alma mater, Liberty University just started doing a puppy room to help students stress relieve during exams. It’s so important to have a way to unwind.

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