Sudbury

Echo Bay author writes book in tribute to disabled wife's 'positive attitude'

Caring for a loved one with a disability can be a tremendous struggle. Add a puppy into the mix and things could get a little hairy. But that's not the case for an Echo Bay man, who brought home a gregarious puppy to his wife, who struggles with a very aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis. It turns out, the addition of an energetic puppy was just what she needed.

JP Duchesne brought home a gregarious puppy to his wife, who lives with aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis

Tammy Duchesne hasn't walked since 2013 due to MS. Last year, her husband JP surprised her with a puppy for companionship. He wrote a book about the experience. (Supplied/JP Duchesne)

A year after JP Duchesne married his wife Tammy, her health started to deteriorate.

A few years later, Tammy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. The Echo Bay couple, who were once very active and traveled often, experienced a huge change in their lives as a result. Tammy hasn't walked since 2013.

Last year, JP decided to surprise Tammy for her 40th birthday.

"She had always wanted a puppy," he said. "We had cats but we never got a dog because of the extra time commitment involved."

He says he and Tammy had gotten used to her care routine, and he felt the time was right.

"Tammy has to spend chunks of her day alone waiting for a caregiver to arrive or after a caregiver has left for me to come home," he said.

"I thought it was a good time for her to have companionship."

Capturing a moment of joy

Duchesne got a miniature Australian Shepherd and got a family member to videotape Tammy's reaction when she opened the box to find a puppy inside.

"That reaction itself was just so genuinely shocked [and] thrilled," he said.

"She cried a little bit as she was looking at this dog for the first time."

Duchesne says he wanted to capture that moment of joy he saw Tammy experienced when she met her puppy. The eventually settled on the name Phoenix for the new pup.

He decided to write a book and incorporate QR codes so people can listen to or watch videos of the story -- just as Tammy does, due to her limited mobility from having MS.

"I think Tammy's story is encouraging," he said.

"I think her attitude has been very positive [and] this book is a tribute to that."

Mimi and Phoenix

Not only is the book is a tribute to his wife, but Duchesne says writing the book has helped him to grieve and cope with all the change.

"I think it's helped me to work through my own experience with Tammy's disability," he said.

"It helped me to reflect … on what it is we do have and to be grateful."

He titled it Why Mimi Got a Puppy, as Mimi is a nickname he calls his wife Tammy. Duchesne gave her an early version of the book last year as a Christmas gift.

"It also helped with our relationship," he said. "Tammy's just tickled about the book."

For more information about the book, go to Duchesne's website here.

JP Duchesne gave his wife a book her wrote for her last Christmas. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

With files from Wendy Bird

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