Journey to Living with a Pet with Diabetes
How could you love an animal so much that you’re actually killing them with kindness? Sadly that’s what happened to us and no matter how much we wish we could turn back the clock and do things right it’s too late. Our pet, friend, loyal companion is lost to an inevitable fate.
- Where it all began
- Her name is Lucy
- The bad habits begin
- More bad habits developed as we travel to British Columbia
- The personality of Lucy
- Lucy is diagnosed with diabetes
- Our decision
- Two months after Lucy’s diagnosed with diabetes
- Have we made the right decision?
Where it all began
It doesn’t seem very long ago that the loss of one pet (from old age) brought us to the humane society to adopt another. My dad wasn’t keen on the idea of getting another pet; especially since we were weeks away from a four day journey to British Columbia to visit relatives.
We all decided on getting a little dog that didn’t shed. There were only two small dogs at the animal shelter that day and the first one that caught mine and my mom’s attention was an adorable five-year-old dachshund. We ooh and awed over it; my dad agreed it was cute but his mind was set when someone else caught his attention...
The one who wasn’t keen on getting a pet directed us to the pen; inside was a scruffy 17 pound, seven months old terrier mix. Unlike the other dogs, who barked and whined to get our attention, this pup sat in the middle of her cage calmly looking at us.
She was dropped off the night before and the lady told us we were lucky to get her because small dogs are the first to get adopted. Sure enough as we were signing the papers, the people who came in after us were looking at her. I instantly had the urge to not let her out of my site.
Her name is Lucy
You could say Lucy chose her own name. When we adopted her from the shelter her name was Buddy and being seven months old we thought we could get away with changing it. My mother and I wanted something exotic like Misha, Sasha or Cocoa… But she responded to none of these names, even Buddy didn’t faze on her.
The next morning when my mom woke up, she felt this furry thing wrapped about her head as if it were a hat. There curled about her head was this pup—sunlight poured in from the bedroom window highlighting long red eyelashes. Lucy! The name was the first thing that popped into her head. The famous redhead Lucille Ball came to mind and it fit; we only had to say the name Lucy twice and she took to it.
The bad habits begin
Still new to us she had two accidents in the house; (a communication barrier between us). Lucy didn’t whine or bark to go out but she was more insistent of our attention at those times. It didn’t take long for us to catch on and as a reward we gave her a treat (dog biscuit) for each successful mission outside.
We live in the country so there’s lots of room for a pup like Lucy to romp around. At first when we got her, we let her out on a leash so she could familiarize herself with her surroundings; after that she went out on her own. She would play, run and go exploring and each time when we called for her to come in we would reward her with a treat for listening.
We always had good intentions. For one, we were adamant about not feeding her people food; she always had dry dog food, we wanted to keep her teeth in optimal condition. We tried to do everything by the book.
More bad habits developed as we travel to British Columbia
Lucy was barely eight months old when we all packed up and traveled the 3800 kilometers which is approximately 2200 miles to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. At first, we stuck to our guns and didn’t feed her people food. Her food and water dish in the van was always full; we made it as comfortable as possible for her--she was a born traveler, loving the sites and different smells. Perhaps guilt crept into us as we ordered take out along the way; being in such close quarters we found it awkward passing food to each other just above her head. Eventually we caved, giving her a piece of french fry here and french fry there. Of course there’s the coffee shops--we’re a big Tim Horton’s fan; even when we’re not traveling we get their coffee. The employee saw Lucy sitting between the front seats and asked if our dog would like a Timbit? (It’s a doughnut hole) What would it hurt? After awhile Lucy came to expect the treat; we thought it cute as she hopped up between the seats expecting her daily Timbit. Even when we returned to Ontario; if we drove past the regular Tim Horton’s shop we frequented, she would go in the back seat and find an empty Tim Horton’s cup and drop it between my parents, insistent on stopping to get her Timbit.
The personality of Lucy
I have never known a dog like Lucy… She runs the household; at 10:00 pm she picks up her stuffy and carries it to my dad, telling him in her way that it’s time to go to bed. My dad in turn kisses everyone goodnight but if Lucy doesn’t see the exchange, she’ll stop by my mom or me depending on who she thinks he missed and stands there until he gives the kiss goodnight. As for communicating in other ways, if Lucy wants to go outside, she’ll pick up her stuffy and squeak it. My dad will ask “do you have to go outside?” in return; she squeaks her toy. He will ask her, “are you sure?” again she will squeak the toy and always carries it to the door in which she drops it before exiting.
Lucy does have a temper. She’s use to her dish always being full; once her food is gone, she’ll pick up her dish and bring it to you; if you don’t listen she’ll bang the metal dish around, getting louder and more persistent the longer she has to wait.
On one occasion, my brother took her for a ride into town, when he returned home she immediately walk past him and went to bed. Baffled, he asked what was wrong with her. In which my mom replied, “did you take her to Tim Horton’s for a Timbit?” Lucy associates town with Timbits and has a tendency to pout if she doesn’t get her way.
Another quirky thing she does, she likes to bark if she hears a vehicle--the thing is if she’s sleepy, she’ll muster enough energy to bark without moving even if she’s lying on her back.
Aside from pouting, banging her dish and barking, Lucy’s flawless, she’s gentle, never growls and is always loving, spending her time equally between my parents and me.
Lucy is diagnosed with diabetes
Lucy gained weight over the years but she looked cute and cuddly like a teddy bear; only in recent weeks her weight dropped dramatically. We knew something was wrong; she was eating the same as before, the only difference being she started drinking more. We planned to take her to the vet’s the following week. But it was too little too late. My dad noticed on a Friday night that her eyesight seemed off and decided first thing Monday morning we would bring her in. In just the two days it took to get to Monday morning, Lucy’s eyesight was almost completely gone. Looking back on it we realized there were signs she was having problems seeing, I even mentioned on one occasion that her eyes seemed bigger and thought perhaps it was due to the weight loss but on retrospect I think she was straining to see clearer.
Dropping her off at the vet’s overnight was hard--we were never separated that long from Lucy and knew she was anxious to be without us.
We half expected the news when the vet called the next day but still it felt like the rug was pulled out from beneath us. We were left with three choices,
• Let the diabetes run its course untreated which would give us three to four months before she passed away.
• Have her euthanized
• Or give her insulin shots once a day; monitor her food intake to one cup high fiber dog food in the morning and one cup in the evening. She would have to return to the vet for another overnight visit in three weeks to check her blood and then every four to five weeks return for several hours to monitor her glucose level. Needless to say, this would cost.
One of the factors we struggled with was what would be the quality of her life? She was already blind and then on top of it she would have to put up with a strict diet and be given daily insulin shots, not to mention separating her for hours from us when we sent her to the vet. This all weighed heavily on our conscience.
We thought about letting the diabetes run its course but then we thought we would regret the decision if we didn’t at least try the insulin and see if she would adapt to her new world.
Now I know how it feels when they say tough love; the hardest thing is to keep her on the diet when she wants something extra to eat. Luckily the veterinarian said we could give her a rawhide bone once in awhile and a few bits of her special dog food for a treat.
Two months after Lucy’s diagnosed with diabetes
Today, a low guardrail now runs along the sides of the ramp to keep Lucy from falling off. She makes her way around the house effortlessly, only bumping into something that’s out of order.
I relish the moments when I see her enjoying herself. Lucy still goes outside and wanders about, stopping in the field when she hears something interesting; once her curiosity is satisfied, she’ll carry on with her exploration until she finds an appealing scent in the grass to roll in it. As for spoiling; we spoil her in other ways; surprising her with a squeaky toy here and there (not just at Christmas time anymore). She still loves her toys and takes great joy in them.
She’s good with her insulin shots and will even wake my parents up in the morning with a friendly nudge or kiss to get her shot and in return she gets a reward.
Have we made the right decision?
Time will only tell. It’s been several months since her diagnose; we spent well over $2000 in vet bills.
As for quality of life; I believe Lucy has adjusted and we’re adjusting as well, careful to watch she doesn’t run after a car she hears, putting up low guardrails along the ramp and open spaces on the deck so she doesn't fall off. People who come into the house call out to her, announcing their presence for she will continue to bark until she recognizes their voice.
Still, it’s a journey; one I hadn’t expected, one that holds my heart and one that riddles me with guilt for I know Lucy's diabetes was preventable. She's our dog, our companion, loving and trusting us unconditionally and we unwittingly failed her.
Recently, we learned the name Lucy means light and I have to say she does bring light to our lives, brightening our days and filling us with a joy that only she could bring.
For more on Lucy; I posted a blog about her at Christmas with more pictures and a video. Christmas with Our Dog Lucy