Stamford woman with MS takes up dog walk challenge

A Stamford woman with multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia who couldn’t walk at all last year is going to be pounding the pavements this month to raise money for charity MS-UK.
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Jane McKnight, 45, was diagnosed with MS in 2022 after suffering speech and vision problems and dizzy spells. She is taking part in The Big Purple Dog Walk, MS-UK’s annual event which sees pooches all over the UK pop on purple bandanas and help their owners complete challenges throughout March. Accompanying her will be Gary and Biddy, her two spaniels.

But Jane also has a personal reason for setting this exercise challenge – a deal with a surgeon to shed 10kg in just three months which will mean she can undergo a possibly life-changing operation.

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“Last year, my MS took a turn for the worse,” she says. “I was in terrible pain, and even the simplest tasks such as putting on my socks, brushing my teeth and even walking became impossible.

Jane and her walking buddies at her place of workJane and her walking buddies at her place of work
Jane and her walking buddies at her place of work

“I developed depression and anxiety and could no longer get out and about to walk my dogs – I had to pay a dog walker. I gained so much weight, had to have steroid injections and was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I had to have counselling to try and come to terms with how much MS had affected my life.”

Since last year, Jane has made big changes to try and manage her condition. She’s reduced her workload as a dog groomer, tried new pain relief as well as nerve-blocking injections. “Then I went to see a surgeon and he thinks he will be able to give me an operation that will hopefully have a positive effect on a number of issues that are causing me pain, if I can lose the weight.

“So I have to shift 10kg in three months – I have until the end of April. And is there any better way to do it than walking with my two best friends Gary and Biddy everyday through the month of March for the wonderful charity MS-UK? It’s getting me out of a mental health rut because I’m getting daily exercise.

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Gary is a rescue spaniel who was saved from a drugs den in a terrible condition when he was six months old. Since then he’s become a lifeline to Jane. “He is a huge support to me – he just seems to understand me. He checks on me when I’m in the shower and is never far away,” she says.

Jane and BiddyJane and Biddy
Jane and Biddy

“Biddy I’ve had since a puppy. She is a Pets at Therapy (PAT) dog and when we can we go to the local hospital to visit patients. Biddy loves food, and is always on the sniff for a poo bag or a tissue! She is my grooming assistant when I work in my grooming salon a couple of days a week, and she loves to come into Stamford Veterinary Centre where I work on Friday – she sits under the reception desk.”

Jane explains that while The Big Purple Dog Walk will be a challenge, she’s planned carefully to make sure she can give it her best shot. “I never know each day what surprised MS will throw my way,” she says. “What I can do in the morning isn’t the same as what I can do in the afternoon. For now the plan is to stick to lead walks on the pavement because the fields are too wet and muddy and I need to be very careful about safety. Having MS itself is a challenge but so is the wet weather and my balance!”

The Big Purple Dog Walk encourages dog owners to get outside and exercise more — just set the activity for the month and off you go.

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The #TeamPaws team raised £10,655 last year, enough for MS-UK to run its national helpline for a month, giving people with multiple sclerosis information and support.

Anyone who signs up online at and sets up a fundraising page gets a dog bandana after their first donation. Three lucky pooches also win their own personalised gourmet treat jars, courtesy of Sir Woofchester’s doggie treats.

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