Journey to Living with a Pet with Diabetes

Angelique NewmanStarred Page By Angelique Newman, 9th Jun 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Pets>Dogs

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

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.

Our decision

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


Bad Habits, Blindness, Diabetes, Diabetic, Dog, Dogs, Feeding, Food, Journey To Living With A Pet With Diabetes, Lifestyle Changes, Living With Blind Dog, Pets, Terrier Mix

Meet the author

author avatar Angelique Newman
I'm a writer, blogger and a member of RWA. I'm interested in the environment and when I'm not writing I'm usually spending time with my family.

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author avatar Denise O
23rd Aug 2011 (#)

Angelique, I am so sorry Lucy was dx'd with diabetes. I don't know if you remember but, when I first started writing on wikinut, a year ago. My first dog articles were about our dog Max, whom just passed away, he was a little over 12 years old. Which being a rottie, is in the realm of the age you would expect your dog to live, for his breed. Max had been a diabetic, he was dx'd when he was 7. From all the research I have done over the years and from the mouth of our vet... A dog whom is a diabetic, was always a diabetic from the get go, we just don't notice the signs until it is far more advanced, so please do not go on the guilt trip. The one trip we did for years. Max's diet was tricky, he did not work well with a high fiber diet, the one our vet recommended so, I started to change his food around, after a lot of research, that is. I have found, just like humans, dogs also react differently to the diabetes they have. Max lived his last 3 years blind. He went for a check up, the vet said he was fine, two weeks later, he was blind. We also built him a ramp and he had very little problems with obstacles outside. His dad Boo guided him the first few days around the yard, then Max picked up where things were at and he lived a good quality of life until the end. The only thing I would change if I could is, I would of checked his blood sugar with a blood gluclose monitor and not the urine test strips. I wish you and your family lots of luck my friend. it is not easy having a diabetic dog but, it can be managed. As always, thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Denise O
23rd Aug 2011 (#)

Also, absolutely gorgeous pictures of Lucy, gotta love it!:)

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author avatar Angelique Newman
23rd Aug 2011 (#)

Thank you so much Denise, I remember your writings about Max and felt your pain over your loss. Our pets hold so much of our hearts.

I had no idea that dogs who are diabetic are diabetics from the start. Thanks for sharing; the knowledge relieves some of my guilt. For the first month of her diagnoses I felt like we had already lost her--it was very upsetting.

Over the last couple of months, Lucy has comforted us with her ability to adjust so quickly. She will even run blind as she is in the field! Truly amazing!

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author avatar Denise O
23rd Aug 2011 (#)

Yes, we also felt the guilt, until I did my research and then had a long talk with our veterinarian. So, stop the guilt hon.:)
Max was the same way, once he adjusted (it only taken days) he would do the same thing. max had a wonderful quality of life, up until the end. It is upsetting to find out and it does freak ya out at first but, you will adjust, I have faith in y'all. If y'all can, try and get a (heck I can't remember the name of the test (ugh) blood monitor done by your vet, if y'all can. Lucy will go to the vets for the day, you give her the exact food she gets and at the exact time you would at home. They will test her blood throughout the day and see when her sugar peaks or if it goes low. Then you can adjust her feeding time, when her sugar is going low, so it will maybe stay in the ideal slot they want the blood sugar to be. It cost us 110 dollars for the whole thing, stay & all and they only have to do it once. Max's sugar was more manageable eating small meals throughout the day. Tell this to a rottie, he is not very happy about that. LOL
But honestly, Max adjusted to that also. I also changed his dog food and started to cook him his meals but, Max was also allergic to corn and wheat, so just get a good dog food for lucy, if you don't want to do that. I am so sorry about this hon, I know the feeling and my heart goes out to you. If you ever have any questions you would like to ask me, you can email me at

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author avatar Angelique Newman
29th Aug 2011 (#)

Denise you're a dear-heart ((hugs)) I'll try and get a blood monitor thing for Lucy, that's a great price; it will probably be a little different in Canada but it helps :-)

Thanks again for all the help you've given me, you truly are a dear friend :)

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author avatar Carol
25th Aug 2011 (#)

Angelique thank you for sharing your beautiful Lucy with us, the pic is gorgeous. I am sorry to hear she is diabetic, but I am sure you don't need to blame yourself. She has been given a loving and caring home with you.

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author avatar Angelique Newman
29th Aug 2011 (#)

Thanks Carol, Lucy seems to have bounced back. When she became first blind she was quiet and most likely confused because it happened so fast, but now she runs alongside my parents when they take their daily walk in the back field and back (which is about a 1/4 mile for their exercise). Lucy loves the exercise, we just have to call out to her every now and then so she doesn't run into the deck on her return home :)

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author avatar Songbird B
29th Aug 2011 (#)

This was a really touching article, Angelique, and incredible photos of a stunning looking dog. Animals are amazing , they adjust so well..It is a problem that I am glad you have raised though, as we all tend to spoil our dogs with titbits of human food, me included, and it really isn't any good for them...Sage advice, my friend, and a wonderful share. Congrats on your Star page, and for bringing this problem to our attention..I hope that Lucy goes on to have a long and happy life...

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author avatar Angelique Newman
29th Aug 2011 (#)

Thank you Songbird B, I truly appreciate it :)

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author avatar A K Rao
15th Aug 2012 (#)

I am touched as a dog lover with the whole story! But as a Vet I know it is the good decision you have taken and possibly I too would have done the same! I Wish dear lucy a long and happy life ! Thanks !

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author avatar Angelique Newman
15th Oct 2012 (#)

Thank you A K Rao I just came upon your message and truly appreciate your kind words.

Sadly we lost Lucy in August due to a severe case of pancreatitis. Life will never be the same for us without her. She filled us with such joy, there was never a dull moment with her. We were truly blessed to have her the time that we did. I'll miss her always until one day we may be reunited again.

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