Our new normal: How our diabetic dog gave us structure and purpose.

I remember the day our Lhasa Apso was diagnosed as a diabetic. After our Sunny had been at the vet’s for almost a week, our vet phoned me to give me an update on how Sunny was doing. At first I was relieved because the vet had initially thought that Sunny had cancer. But as soon as the call ended, this fright came over me because that meant my husband and I had to give Sunny an injection every day. Actually, we had to give her an injection twice a day, every day. How was that going to work? My husband, Alex, and I always worked late and always procrastinated. I always waited last minute to do almost anything. And not because I was doing anything important. Simply because I had no discipline or sense of urgency for any of the tasks that needed to be completed. Thinking back, we were never really consistent at all. So how was having a diabetic dog going to change our lives?

Well, before bringing Sunny home, we had to meet with the vet tech so we could learn how to administer the insulin shots. That was nervewracking. If we didn’t have to give the shots twice a day, I was seriously thinking about bringing our dog to the vet every day so that a vet tech could administer the shot for us. We went through so many needles that first week and more times than not, Sunny would yelp when we gave her the shot. I mean, a piercing yelp that had Alex and I traumatized for quite some time. For a while there, I had to give Sunny both shots every day because Alex couldn’t handle the stress. He was so traumatized that he couldn’t even be in the same room with me when I was administering the shot. Eventually, we figured it out. We realized that no matter the anxiety we were feeling and no matter how much we wanted to avoid caring for her in this way, our dog’s life would end if we didn’t get it together. Given how I am naturally an evening person and Alex is naturally a morning person, we decided to split the duty of administering the shots. And all of a sudden it was like clockwork.

Alex gets up every morning at 6 o’clock to take the insulin out of the fridge and give Sunny her Denamarin. By 7 o’clock, Sunny is eating breakfast and Alex gives her 6 units of Humilin N by 7:15 – 7:30 a.m. And up until last year, Alex and I split the duties of giving Sunny her six eye drops all 5-10 minutes apart. For the evening round, I made sure to leave the office by 5 but no later than 6 p.m. so I can get home by 7 o’clock, feed Sunny and administer the 6 units of insulin. After Sunny’s evening shot, Alex would be home in time to walk her, we wiped her down and administered any other eye drops. If ever we needed to make changes to the time table, we did so by pushing everything in 15-minute increments throughout the day until we had her set at the time we needed.

Becoming comfortable and confident administering the shots made it easy for us to get up or get home in time for her. But making sure she was fed every 12 hours, with a shot being given no later than an hour after eating, was not the end to our new responsibilities. We needed to make sure that we were not only in stock of the supplies we needed (food, insulin, syringes, and medications), but that we ordered the supplies in enough time that we had the new batch before the old batch ran out. We now know exactly how long a bottle of insulin lasts (3 months) so that way we never miss a refill. We set reminders to check the syringes supply. And for a few months there when regulating her insulin amount, we made sure to walk her at least twice a day, sometimes more, as we kept a journal for her ketone and glucose levels. Have you ever had to follow your dog around in rain and snow with little strips, hoping to catch her relieving herself in time to get a urine sample? It’s not necessarily fun and we always seemed to get weird looks from passersby. But you know what? We didn’t mind. We enjoyed the walks despite the odd looks.

Thinking back on it all now, I think that for the first time in a long time, our life had purpose. There was finally a sense of urgency for us to be on time and I don’t mean urgency in a panicked sort of way. It was very matter of fact. And all the walks together, the three of us, ended the perpetuation of lazy days and pushed us to live in the moment. You know what? I think what they say is right – when you live for something outside of yourself and not solely serving your own needs, your life is more fulfilled because you now have purpose. So my newly structured life is a blessing. And I have my diabetic dog to thank.

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