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July 2, 2014

MOSS: Misadventures, and life, with Millie in New Albany

Woman with MS finds new life chronicling dog’s days

NEW ALBANY — Becky Heishman stays happy a paragraph or two at a time, day after day. She writes for more than 6,000 of us and counting.

Heishman finds joy meting made-up misadventures of her beloved dog Millie. Heishman’s fans surely wait on Facebook for the next story to unfold. Heishman, of New Albany, all but lives to see herself what comes next. “I’ve created this little world — it’s Millie’s world,” Heishman said.

“It’s her little world and people can’t get enough.”

At 64, Heishman copes with multiple sclerosis that robbed her of her nursing career, her strength and more or less her will to go on. She rarely left home, felt betrayed for feeling so lousy and guilty for relying on disability. If not for the devoted patience of her husband, William Heishman, and the never-down companionship of their dog, a yellow mutt named Misty, who knows how things might’ve ended. “I had three years of invalid hell,” Heishman said.

She ultimately leaned on Misty to pull herself up, to find reason to get up in the morning. Heishman wrote initially about Misty, steadily strung together tales that took root like perhaps something only can on a Facebook community page. Heishman always had liked writing and realized to her delight that it liked her back. “I took a whole new path,” she said. “I reinvented myself.”

Her disease partially backed off and her pastime more than partially took off. Misty died but Millie joined the Heishman family and slipped in seamlessly as star of the literary show. Heishman also put out a Millie book, a 95-page triumph that she sells on Amazon, however, and whenever else she can.

She donates book proceeds to animal-lover groups such as Piece of My Heart Rescue, led by Lauren Howard of Floyds Knobs. “It gives her a focus that’s tenfold,” Howard said of Heishman’s writing. “It brings joy to people. It brings inspiration.

“She inspires me. The mere act of her doing it is huge. She is a Southern Indiana original.”

For much of her adult life, Heishman was a licensed practical nurse intending to become a registered nurse. For years, too many years, she tried to get ahead but invariably dropped back because of her health. Her MS was belatedly diagnosed but after it was, Heishman left Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services and began her freefall.

She said she asked her husband — a former sheriff of Harrison County — to leave her, to be free of the burden she considered herself. He didn’t; they have been married 38 years. And Misty helped all she could for as long as she could.

“Her bed was beside my bed,” Heishman said. “She was just happy because I was there.”

Heishman turned to Facebook out of boredom. She kicked off her dog stories with no assurance a soul would notice, much less care. Dozens did, though, then hundreds and now indeed do thousands. Heishman credits teachers from way back who encouraged her writing and, believe it or not, she credits MS. “It gave me this opportunity,” Heishman said.

“It’s a whole new life, just a magical thing. I’m having so much fun.”

Heishman’s Facebook community page remains Misty-the-Dog and Friends and she has finished a second Millie volume. She hopes both for more readers plus, by her success, to uplift others down for one reason or another. “I see myself as a survivor,” Heishman said. “I want to tell everybody that as bad as it gets, it’s going to get better.

“I mean it. I was supposed to be dead by now.”

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