What My Dog Thinks About My Diabetes

The other day, I decided to ask my puppy, Violet, what she thinks about my diabetes…

…and she just stared at me, nonplussed, because obviously she’s a dog and she can’t respond to me with anything other than tail wags, barks, or playful growls.

Violet’s expression when I asked her about my diabetes.

But really, I’ve been thinking about how much she notices my diabetes. I know that she sees my devices from time to time – and sheer curiosity causes her to poke and prod them with her nose in what I perceive to be an attempt to dislodge them from my body.

I know that she wakes up in the middle of the night when I’m experiencing a low blood sugar and have to come downstairs to correct it.

I know she watches me during every pod change, gazing up and tilting her head from side to side whenever my PDM beeps throughout the process.

I know that she gets excited when I get a box of insulin or Dexcom sensors in the mail – she’s right by my side, jumping up and down as I tear into the packages, thinking that it might be a special delivery for her.

I know she waits patiently when I have to pay more attention to my diabetes in a given moment than I can pay to her.

It’s just interesting to bunch all of these moments together and mull over the fact that she is definitely aware of my diabetes, though her understanding of what it is and why it takes up so much of my time is just as likely to be something she’s not aware of.

For her, it’s blissful ignorance.

For me, it’s blissful knowledge that my dog is seemingly patient and understanding when it comes to all diabetes matters.

I’m lucky to have her.

How Raising a Puppy is Similar to Dealing with Diabetes, Part 2

Just about three years ago, I was helping my parents raise their puppy, Clarence. And naturally, with me being who I am, I found that raising him was a lot like dealing with diabetes – and wrote about it in this blog post.

Now that I’m a puppy parent, I revisited that post and found that there are even more similarities between the two.

For starters, one of the biggest parts of diabetes management is the constant monitoring involved in it. As it turns out, the same can be said about raising a puppy! Much like my blood sugar, I am watching her like a hawk during all waking hours. I’m prepared to pounce on her if she’s chewing up a puppy pad or squatting down to her business indoors, just like I’m prepared to act when my blood sugar is going higher or lower than I’d like.

Raising a puppy is only this cute and sweet about 2% of the time. (Okay, total exaggeration here, but I’m writing this after Violet decided to do her business in her playpen just after I had her outside.)

Also, as it turns out – shocker – having a puppy around is exhausting. My sleep has been interrupted several times over the last few weeks by Violet’s whimpers. Before, I used to only have to worry about a Dexcom alarm waking me in the middle of the night, but now I have to respond to her cries, too. Fortunately, having a puppy isn’t totally like having diabetes in this regard, because at least I can nap when she’s napping! (We all know that diabetes never sleeps…)

Another similarity, one that I don’t mind so much, is the frequent exercise that Violet needs. Just like my diabetes tends to be “better controlled” when I exercise each day, Violet also responds really well to playtime. The best part is that after a nice, long session of fetch or tug-of-war, she tends to zonk out afterwards, which I see as the puppy equivalent of having the coveted 100 mg/dL blood sugar.

However, there are tons of obvious differences between raising a puppy and managing diabetes. But the best, perhaps biggest one of all? Violet improves (well, when she doesn’t have an accident indoors) my overall mood and mental health. I know that her ability to do this will only increase over time as she matures. And I know that having her around will help me through the tough diabetes days that I’m bound to face in the future, and for that and so much more, I’m thankful for my little pup.

Meet Violet

Cactus Huggers, I have someone I would like for you to meet.

This is Violet:

Violet enjoys playing with her many toys as well as using them as pillows. Here she is laying on top of a puppy of her own.

Violet is a 10-week-old tri-color Shetland Sheepdog puppy. And for those of you who are familiar with my parents’ dog, Clarence (I’ve written about him on the blog before), Violet is actually Clarence’s niece by blood – his sister is Violet’s mommy.

And I’m Violet’s human mommy.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a dog of my own. I considered Clarence to be “my” dog in the last few years because we lived under the same roof most of that time, but I knew that when I eventually moved out, Clarence wouldn’t be coming with me. I also knew that my desire for a dog would only increase if I ever found myself living on my own. So I felt that the stars aligned when I discovered – soon after I moved out towards the end of 2020 – that Clarence’s sister was expecting a litter of puppies, and that one of those puppies would be mine.

This isn’t how I expected it to happen. I never wanted to raise a puppy on my own; after all, puppies are a lot of work. Clarence was a tough puppy to deal with and he had three humans taking care of him!

But I feel as though maybe this is how it was supposed to happen. This tiny creature relies on me for everything. I have quickly become her whole world, and she has become mine. That’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly, and though I know we will have our highs and lows – much like the ones I have with my diabetes – I know that we will live and thrive together happily.

Just like I do with my diabetes.

The Amazing Flying CGM!

I reached into the front pocket of my sweatshirt. My tube of glucose was there, but nothing else…oh, shit.

My CGM receiver was gone.

“C’mon, pup, we’ve gotta find it,” I said to my canine companion, Clarence. He was all too happy to oblige as we sprinted back up the street to find my receiver.

It couldn’t have gone far…

My anxious eyes scanned all around our surroundings. Surely, my CGM’s bright pink case would pop against the dull browns, grays, and greens that painted the wet landscape.

Where WAS it?

Did I actually leave my house with it in the first place? Or was it still sitting atop my nightstand with my glucometer?

All I knew was that I’d better find it soon…or the chances of it getting run over by a car going at least 40 mph were very good.

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Have you ever had your CGM (or any other diabetes device) take off in flight?

Not here, not there…

Really, Clarence, it’d be great if you could help me look for it rather than pick up sticks…

Dammit, what am I going to do if it’s gone for good…

“AHA!” I triumphantly said out loud as I spotted the neon pink rectangle, nestled on a patch of damp earth. I tugged Clarence, who was just focused on sniffin’ and walkin’ as a young puppy would be, over to where my CGM was lying face-down. It was almost like it was too exhausted to continue on our walk.

Or perhaps it had just wanted to leap free from the confines of my pocket and fly high…just as my blood sugar had that morning. Who knows. I was just glad to have found it. Reunited, I tucked it safely into a different pocket – a zippered one, this time – and continued my walk with my happy puppy.

 

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.

Diabetes: A Condition of Consistency

“Consistency is key” is a well-known adage for a reason: It applies to many things in life, including diabetes.

This has resonated more and more with me over the last few months, as I’ve experienced greater interruptions in my day-to-day routines. The most obvious change has affected my Monday through Friday lunch hour at work. I usually need to go home three out of five days to take care of my puppy – feed him, play with him, and make sure he hasn’t totally destroyed anything in the few hours since I last saw him. I don’t mind this at all, because I love my little Clare-bear, but on days that I have to be with him, my diabetes is definitely affected.

For starters, I have to eat my lunch much later than I normally do on non-Clarence days. Technically, I could eat my lunch when I go home to see him, but I have a very narrow window of time – approximately thirty minutes – to be with him. It doesn’t seem fair for me to go home, pour out his kibble, then spend the majority of our half hour together putting together and eating my own lunch. So I spend my lunch break giving the puppy my full attention, which makes us both pretty happy.

Clarence
My Clare-bear certainly knows how to keep me, and my diabetes, on our toes!

Eating lunch during my allotted break is ruled out, so I have to decide whether to eat it before or after my stop home. I usually end up forcing myself to wait until I get back from feeding Clarence to eat, but this is easier said than done for a few reasons: Sometimes, my blood sugar will crash while I’m with the dog, so I have to eat a snack to correct it because my actual prepacked meal is waiting for me in the office refrigerator. Or I have to scramble from one meeting to home and then back to the office for another meeting and won’t have a chance to sit and eat until 2 o’clock, which means that I have to sit through an afternoon meeting without a full attention span because all I can think about is my grumbling stomach. On those days, I’m pretty hangry by the time I get to eat, and even more so irritated when my blood sugar retaliates at me later on for waiting so long to eat.

That being said, I’ve had to make peace with the fact that my weekday/lunchtime blood sugars will be a bit all over the place. I know that things will be easier when Clarence gets older, but for now, I’m determined to enjoy his puppy-hood without diabetes interfering too much. And if nothing else, it reminds me how important it is to stick to the basics with diabetes: Eat regular, healthy meals and the habit will reflect well on blood sugar and A1c.

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.