We hear time and time again (and science has proven) that dogs are good for our health, especially our mental health. There’s nothing quite like the comfort of feeling your pet snuggled up to you at the end of a hard day or the joy of their wiggling bums when you return home. Somehow, without words, our pets manage to make us feel like the most important people in the world.
But for those who struggle with an illness (mental or physical), it can be a struggle to care for our pets the way they deserve when we are struggling just to care for ourselves. Realizing we’ve been slacking as pet parents can add to our stress levels and really just make things feel that much more unmanageable.
Fortunately, there are ways to cope and ensure our furry friends are still loved and cared for.
1. Realize that you can probably never provide your pet with the lifestyle or as much love as they deserve. Well. That’s a depressing way to start the list. What I mean is that we love our pets so incredibly much that we would probably do just about anything for them. Our pets are these perfect little furballs that deserve the best of everything – and it’s impossible to provide them with this! What we can do, however, is do our best to ensure they are happy and healthy, and really, that’s all they ask of us, isn’t it?
2. Ask for help. Can a family member take your dog out for a walk while you’re at an appointment or taking a much needed nap? Could a friend look after your pet for the weekend to give you a chance to fully rest and regroup? Can you hire a dog walker to help get your pet some exercise when you’re just not up to it? Sometimes removing these smaller tasks and responsibilities removes quite a burden of stress that you didn’t realize was there.
3. Don’t be afraid to pay for help. I know that if money is tight this can be a difficult one to juggle, but if you can manage it, don’t be embarrassed or afraid to outsource some of your dog’s needs. If you just don’t have the energy to get your dog out for a walk, have a dog walker pop by to take him out for a jaunt. I’ve personally had my dog walker come by when I’m sick and will leave my dog outside the bedroom so she can easily leash her and take her out and I don’t have to interact or show my admittedly-terrifying face. If you know you can and should be trimming your dog’s nails but just aren’t getting to it, mark on your calendar to bring them to the groomer or vet every couple of weeks to ensure they stay at a healthy and manageable length. If you can’t bring them yourself, there’s even pet taxi services that will pick the dog up and bring them to the vet, or try to find a groomer that will come to your home. Yes, you could do all of this yourself, and perhaps someday you can, but right now it might be better to get some help.
4. Just do something small. Sure, your dog may be up for a 10K jog, then swimming in the river, then for a car ride to their favourite pet boutique all before noon, but guess what? They’ll likely be thrilled with a jaunt around the block and a food toy while you relax. That’s one of the greatest things about our dogs, they’re just so thrilled about everything! Do what you can manage, you know they’ll thank you for it!
5. Take advantage of food toys and other “simple” enrichment activities. Delivering supper in a Kong Wobbler or a snuffle mat doesn’t take too much extra effort than putting it in a bowl and will help to occupy your dog and tire their brain a little. Other options may include rolling their kibble into an old towel that they can unroll, tossing their kibble into the grass in the backyard so they can forage for it – the options are literally endless!
6. Know they love you anyway. I know that some days this list sounds manageable, and some days even reading this list is just too much. Know that if all you managed today was to care for your dog’s basic needs and nothing beyond their regular feeding and a couple of trips outside, they love and adore you anyway. They think you’re the greatest person to have existed and they can’t believe they ever found someone like you. And they’ll be right there with you until you’re feeling better and are able to do more with them.
If you are struggling to meet your pet’s basic needs, it is time to call in reinforcements. Despite how you are feeling, you made a commitment to a living being who depends on you. There are several different agencies who may be able to assist you, please don’t be afraid to reach out to them.