Michael J. Fox Opens Up About the Importance of Pets for People with Chronic Illnesses

"You know that no matter your situation, no matter what you feel, this animal is with you and is connected to you," Michael J. Fox said

Michael J. Fox is opening up about the importance of his dog, Gus, in his ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease.

The former Family Ties star chatted with CBS News’ Lee Cowan for the network’s primetime special, The Pet Project, airing Friday, Nov. 27 at 9 p.m. ET.

“You know that no matter your situation, no matter what you feel, this animal is with you and is connected to you, and you feel,” Fox, who first went public with his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 1998, told Cowan. “It’s a force multiplier.”

Fox, 59, went on to say that a pet can help alleviate the feelings of isolation that can come with having a chronic illness such as Parkinson’s.

Michael J. Fox dog
Michael J. Fox/Instagram

“Your instinct when you have a chronic illness is to sometimes isolate and make your world as small as possible so you don’t have much to deal with, but a dog will open you up,” he said.

The Back to the Future actor recently released his fourth memoir, No Time Like the Future, in which he details how Gus has been his constant companion to him, calling the pup a “wonder dog.”

Gus was particularly important to him when Fox had a tumor removed from his spinal cord two years ago, forcing him to relearn how to walk. When Fox returned home from the hospital in a wheelchair, Gus was waiting for him.

“He kind of circles the wheelchair with this low kind of woof woof, woof woof, and sat in front of the wheelchair right in front of me, and looked at me, and I said, 'It’s going to be okay,' ” he told CBS of Gus.

Michael J Fox
Michael J. Fox. MJF Foundation

Fox recently opened up to PEOPLE about the 2018 surgery, sharing that he had a bad fall while relearning to walk, which he said "was definitely my darkest moment."

In the time that it took to heal physically, Fox came to understand that “optimism is really rooted in gratitude,” he said.

“Optimism is sustainable when you keep coming back to gratitude, and what follows from that is acceptance," added Fox. "Accepting that this thing has happened, and you accept it for what it is. It doesn’t mean that you can’t endeavor to change. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it as a punishment or a penance, but just put it in its proper place. Then see how much the rest of your life you have to thrive in, and then you can move on.”

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