The dogs are always pleased to make anytime bedtime

Unexpected Support for My Chronic Fatigue: How My Dogs Adapted to Napping

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Hi, I’m Dr. Karyn. Read my introduction to learn more about me and my five funny dogs, Poppy, Bailey, Kodah, Ned, and Fred.

I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Some days I have a surplus of energy, and I try to pack as much in as I can, but about 50% of the time, I feel exhausted before the day has even started. With five dogs, I really worry about the impact it has on their lives on the days that I can barely get out of bed, let alone play with them and go for walks. What I wasn’t prepared for was the comfort and camaraderie provided by my pack, including my ordinarily very lively German Shepherd-Malinois. When fatigue gets the best of me, not only do they not complain that I’m still in bed, they also make sure that I’m never alone, happy to indulge in daytime naps for as long as I need it.

The Frustration of Fatigue

I admit, many years ago when I first heard the term ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, I laughed it off as a fancy way of saying ‘lazy’. Over the past few years, I’ve been forced to adjust my attitude. Every day I would wake up feeling more tired than when I went to bed, and there were many weekends that I slept for 36 hours or more.

Cosy cuddles with Cyril the cat and Ned
Cosy cuddles with Cyril the cat and Ned

With cats, this isn’t too much of an issue. As long as I was able to provide them with food and water, and keep their litter boxes clean, they weren’t too bothered about how I otherwise spent my day. When it comes to my dogs, however, not only did I need to be on duty to let them in and out to the toilet, but I had to make sure they were getting plenty of exercise and play. We do have a nice little yard, but it’s not large enough for a dog like Kodah to burn off the excess energy he never seems to be short of. But between working full time and recovering from working full time, I was running at a serious energy deficit.

I am glad to be able to say that my symptoms have started to improve, but it’s still very common for me to need a long nap during the day.

Always ready for a nap
Always ready for a nap

Impressively Adaptable

Being in the geriatric stage of life, the Labradors, Poppy and Bailey, are more than happy to trade a long walk for a snooze, and Ned and Fred will usually tire themselves out by chasing each other up and down the stairs before collapsing into a pile of adorableness. It was Kodah who worried me most. Being a Malinois x German Shepherd, his exercise and stimulation needs are high, and I worried that he would become bored and frustrated when I was upstairs sleeping.

Remarkably, Kodah has proven to be far more adaptable than I gave him credit for.

Don’t get me wrong, he still needs plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, toys, and puzzles, but he has seemingly adjusted his routine to fit in with mine, embracing the siesta lifestyle.

Nap Time

Group nap
Group nap

On the days that tiredness was winning, I would always feel overwhelmed by guilt at the idea of abandoning the dogs when I went upstairs to sleep. As it turns out, it’s hard to abandon them when they just come along too! By the time I had climbed the stairs and carefully arranged my nest of pillows, I would be surrounded by a full complement of canines, arranging themselves around the pillow nest and me.

It may not have been a walk on the beach or day at the dog park, but it seemed that they were perfectly content, as long as they were by my side. So much so that these days, I just have to say “nap time”, and Ned, Fred, and Kodah are racing upstairs in pursuit of the best position on the bed. Most of the time, there is also a cat or two squeezing their way too. I think it might be time to invest in a larger bed!

Just enough room for me...and maybe 1 more Chihuahua?
Just enough room for me…and maybe 1 more Chihuahua?

Letting Myself Off The Hook

I think that sometimes we can get caught up in all the things we ‘should’ be doing, comparing ourselves to everyone else and beating ourselves up when we fall short. I was so worried about being judged for not taking my dogs out often enough, that it took me a really long time to realize that my dogs were doing just fine. I was so preoccupied with my failure to keep up with the lifestyle I thought they should have, that I hadn’t noticed that they had happily adapted to mine.

And you know what? Now that I’ve stopped wasting energy feeling guilty for letting my dogs down, I find myself with more energy to actually spend on them!

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