What I Wish my Dog Knew About Diabetes

Clarence the Shetland Sheepdog joined our family almost one year ago, and he’s brought us nothing but joy and unconditional love ever since then. Well, he’s also brought us a few headaches (when he has been disobedient) and some panic attacks (when he chews things he shouldn’t), but that’s besides the point – this little puppy is adored beyond his own comprehension and he fits in perfectly with us.

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But something else that Clarence doesn’t quite understand is…yep, you guessed it, diabetes. Realistically speaking, he’s probably totally unaware of it – the bliss of being a dog. I wish he had some sort of grasp of it, though, because there are times when it gets in the way of my interactions with him. How? I’ll get really specific here with my list of things that I wish my little peanut knew about diabetes:

  • I wish that he knew my pods/CGM sensors aren’t chew toys! He doesn’t often grab at them, but every now and then, he’ll notice them on my body and nudge them curiously. And since he’s a mouthy guy (being a puppy and all), he has tried nipping at them a couple of times, which always leads to me yelling at him and shoving him away. So it’d be nice if he could recognize that these things help me stay alive and shouldn’t be played with.
  • I wish that he knew how to fetch glucose tablets or raisins for me/my mother when we’re dealing with low blood sugars. Man, that’d be awesome! But knowing Clarence, if I tried to train him how to do that now, he’d be way more interested in drinking or eating anything intended to remedy a low blood sugar, rather than bringing it over to me or my mom.
  • I wish that he knew how to react, period, to any sort of blood sugar “event”. For example, if we’re out walking and I need to take a break in order to check my levels, it’d be swell if he could wait patiently rather than tug on the leash to keep the walk going. I can’t blame him, he’s just trying to continue his exercise. But if he knew WHY we had to stop – if he could understand in any sort of way – that would be hugely helpful.
  • I wish that he knew that, on the occasions that I can’t play with him, it’s not because I don’t want to. It’s because I HAVE to do something medically necessary, whether it’s change my pod or bolus for dinner, that takes my attention away from him.
  • And I wish that he knew that sometimes, diabetes can take a mental toll on me and my mom, and that there’s not much he can do about it besides continuing to be his sweet self. It’d certainly be convenient for him to realize that his impish side just exacerbates things when one of us is dealing with a stubborn high or shaky low.

That’s my list of wishes, but there’s one thing that I never had to wish for or teach Clarence when it comes to diabetes…and that’s his innate ability to bring us comfort in just about every situation with his mere presence.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Attaboy, Clarence.

How Raising a Puppy is Like Dealing with Diabetes

“Aw, she’s so cute! What’s her name? What kind of dog is she?” The woman stooped down to the ground to take a closer look at Clarence, my 12-week old Shetland Sheepdog – who is a boy.

I patiently answered her questions, knowing she wasn’t really paying attention. After all, she was totally distracted by my adorable little pup.

The man who accompanied her – undoubtedly her partner – was chattier. He looked at me, almost condescendingly, and said something about how this must be my first dog.

Nonplussed, I said, “Actually, this is my family’s third Sheltie. The last time we had a puppy like Clarence here, I was practically a baby myself.”

“Well, you know, I noticed that you’re buying puppy pads. You really shouldn’t do that if you want to get your dog housebroken, it’ll only encourage it to go indoors.” If I thought he was bordering on condescending before, he was definitely laying it on thick now.

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I hastily responded by telling him how the puppy chow that Clarence is eating is salty, and the high salt intake results in frequent puppy puddles in the kitchen. It’s virtually impossible to ensure that Clarence is outside every single time that he has to pee, so the puppy pads have been a huge help. I trailed off, wondering why I had felt the need to provide this stranger with an explanation that wouldn’t matter to him.

The man shrugged, clearly unimpressed by this answer, and walked away.

Upon reflection, this mildly irritating encounter turned into a bit of a metaphor for what life with diabetes is like. People you don’t know bombard you with questions about it. You answer as best as you can, hoping that your replies help these inquisitive folks understand diabetes better than they did before. But this ray of hope is quickly dimmed when the questioners run out of things to ask and begin to tell you how you should manage your diabetes. It’s baffling when it happens because you didn’t ask for advice, but you somehow get an earful of it every damn time.

So I guess in this way, diabetes is a little like raising a puppy. There will be highs and lows, good days and bad days. And unsolicited advice will be dished to you by strangers, even though nobody knows your diabetes – or your dog – the way that you do.

My Diabetes and My Dog: Do they Mix?

Clarence the puppy came home last week! I’m loving getting to know him. It’s beyond adorable to watch him explore his new environment, but it’s also a lot of work.

I knew that he might affect my diabetes, but I figured it would mainly be in positive ways: He’d help keep me active and console me when I was feeling down about it. But there’s also a couple of drawbacks. I confess that instead of my blood sugars being my number one priority, it’s Clarence that takes precedence.

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This little dude is my whole world right now.

It’s not like I’m completely forgetting to take care of my diabetes, or that it’s far from my thoughts. It’s more that I let things go a little longer, that I push the limits a smidgen. For instance, my first full day with him, I woke up and tested my blood sugar but did not test again until the evening. I was trusting my Dexcom readings as I got better acquainted with the puppy. And I tended to graze on food all day long instead of sitting down for real meals. In fact, dinner that first night was almost comical. My T1D mom and I ate a lukewarm meal over the course of about 40 minutes while we took turns taking Clarence outside. We were so concerned with getting him to do his business that we didn’t really care about feeding ourselves in a timely manner.

I know that it’s just a transitional phase, though. Clarence will get adjusted to his new home in due time and we’ll get used to a new routine tailored to suit both our needs and his needs.

And in case you’re wondering, I think Clarence is forming a general awareness of my diabetes. When we were playing on the floor, he walked around me and sniffed at the pod I was wearing on my lower back. He’s a bit mouthy (part of being a puppy), so I was worried he might try to nip at it. Instead, he backed away and picked up one of his toys.

Attaboy, Clarence – he’s a smart cookie.