a woman laying in bed with the covers up to her eyes, her hair a mess, and her dog's head resting on the bed imploring her to get up

Caring for Pets as a Person with Narcolepsy

I am in bed, my sheets tangled around my limbs. My hair is sticking out in sections of tangled curls. I’ve taken my medication an hour earlier, but my body continues to feel as if it is held down by a thousand pounds of sheetrock. My mattress quakes as I turn to my side.

I am greeted by 2 big brown eyes peering into mine from the side of my bed. My German Shepherd service dog, Kida, rests her chin on my mattress.

A furry face implores me to get up

With her long face, she implores me to take her outside for her morning pee. I groan and comply, despite the fact that signals from my own bladder weren’t enough for me to brave the day quite yet.

I spend 10 minutes in the snow waiting for Kida to sniff out the perfect potty spot. Once she is done, we enter our home, where I am reminded that her water dish is empty. Kida saunters to her water dish before nudging it with her nose and glaring at me. I roll my eyes at her sass.

My own mouth parched, already tired from the trip outside, I fill her water. It isn’t until later in the day that I am prompted again by my dehydration to finally drink some water for myself.

Integrating pet care into my day was hard at first

As a person with narcolepsy, I struggle to care for my own hygiene and bodily needs on the majority of days. It is needless to say that learning to integrate the care of a pet was difficult for me at first.

After all, I found it so difficult to care for my own hair with narcolepsy that I shaved my head this year. It cut down on my own hygiene needs, that’s for sure!

My health is tied to Kida's health

First, I found it vital to put my pet’s needs before my own.

As a service dog handler, my health is intrinsically tied to my pup’s. Making the decision to care for another life in the hopes that my quality of life would improve was not easy for me. On my worst days, my own basic needs can go unfulfilled in order to ensure that Kida’s needs do not.

Integrating our care schedules

One way that I’ve combatted this is by integrating my care schedule with my pet’s. For example, as an indoor dog, Kida’s nails need regular trims. This ensures that her paws can maintain their natural posture on hardwood and carpeted flooring. Once I am done trimming her nails, I will usually go ahead and trim my own. (Using different tools, of course! I’m not THAT crazy…)

The end result is that I am able to take care of myself better. This is because finding the ambition to care for myself is really hard, especially as someone who suffers from both depression and narcolepsy. However, caring for my pet is much more motivating because they literally depend on me for their life.

I use my good days to both of our advantages

Sometimes I can struggle for days at a time with endless to-do lists, doctor’s appointments, therapy, and more. Powering through these days often requires many naps. This can infringe on Kida’s exercise schedule or result in some innate pet boredom.

I use my good days to spend time with Kida outdoors. It is refreshing for both of us, physically and spiritually. Investing in these moments may seem frivolous compared to other things that I might need to get done. However, I have found that they are vital to our well-being, both as individuals and as a team.

Pet ownership is a fulfilling part of my life

Overall, pet ownership as a person with narcolepsy comes with its complications and nuances. I have found that caring for something other than myself helps to give me the extra push that I need to get through every day.

There was a learning curve in figuring out how to deal with the needs of another sentient being while struggling to satisfy my own needs. However, pet ownership is ultimately a rich and fulfilling part of my life as a person with narcolepsy that I would not give up for the world.

Do you have a pet? How did you adjust to managing pet care and your own energy needs? Share with us in the comments below!

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