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.

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Attaboy, Clarence

The last lines of the 1946 classic film It’s a Wonderful Life are as follows:

Zuzu Bailey: Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

George Bailey: That’s right, that’s right.

George Bailey: [Looks heavenward] Attaboy, Clarence.

Those who know my family well are aware that this movie, and three of those above names, hold special meaning to us. Bailey was the name of our first dog. Zuzu was our second dog. Both were Shetland Sheepdogs and beloved members of our family. They shaped two very different parts of my life. I attribute the two of them for getting me through various challenges encountered by my family and me over the years, and I’m grateful that we got to provide a loving home to them. A home that’s been quiet since they left us.

A home that once again will be occupied by a puppy’s presence.

Everyone, meet Clarence:

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We are overjoyed that our sweet boy will be coming home soon! And in case you’re wondering what this possibly has to do with my diabetes, I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t really, I’m just bursting with excitement over Clarence’s arrival.

But I’m also pretty darn skilled at making diabetes connections where they don’t seem to exist.

I’m positive that Clarence will help with my diabetes. I plan on taking the little guy on plenty of walks, which will be great for my numbers. I’d also like to set up an agility course in our backyard for him, because based on my past experience with shelties, they have incredible amounts of energy to burn – so I’m certain that means I’ll be running the course and burning energy with him.

Plus, I’m starting to research diabetes alert dogs. I have no idea if I’ll train him to detect high or low blood sugars, but I’m very interested in the idea. Especially since there are multiple diabetics in my family.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonders he’ll work for my mental health. The calming presence of a pup will surely ease my anxieties as well as make me smile even more than I already do.

Attaboy, Clarence – I know that’s something I’ll be saying quite often and very soon.