A furry D-companion

Petey, the T1D three-legged Terrier mix. Image from kold.com

When I was eight years old, I had lived with Type 1 diabetes for a year – but didn’t know of anyone else living with the disease. I also wanted a dog, because, well, I was eight, and dogs are fun.

Madalaine Hembraugh, an eight-year old living in Arizona, had also had been living with T1 – in her case for four years – without knowing anyone else with D. So I can only imagine her reaction and her surprise when her mother brought introduced Petey to the family home. Petey is a Terrier mix who had been neglected and abandoned. He also has Type 1 diabetes.

According to a TV-news and print story by Tucson News Now, Petey was found abandoned in front of the local Humane Society when Madalaine’s mother, a veterinarian, took her in. In the “feel-good” TV news story, the girl and her dog have become best buddies.  The two support each other, and Madalaine even “teaches” Petey how to live with diabetes. They test their blood sugar together. They share insulin (I wonder how insurance companies view that practice).

Surely, all of this is good for the one- or two-year-old Terrier Mix. While one of Petey’s legs had to be amputated because of diabetes complications, the scrawny pup has been put on a regular insulin regimen and is getting stronger. From the video in the news article, he also appears to be happy and playful.

But what type of impression will it leave on Madalaine? Surely, I imagine she feels pride in how she is able to take care of herself as well as of her canine companion. Care of oneself is tough enough at eight years old, even with the help of a parent, but adding an animal to that responsibility – one who can’t express how he feels in the same way as a person can, is difficult.

After Petey gains some more weight and his blood sugars stabilized, sometime in the next few weeks, this dog will be taken from her and put up for adoption. Somebody else will care for this dog (will it be you? Contact the Humane Society of Southern Arizona at 520-321-3704 if you’re interested), and I can only imagine how heartbreaking this will be to Madalaine. Her mother likely will teach, or has taught, her daughter what it’s like to care for a sick animal until it’s healthy enough to be released back in to society. But I’m also sure that she is developing a particularly strong and special bond with Petey, one that will be very difficult to break.

Years from now, when she’s going through the familiar and inevitable “diabetes burnout”, I hope the she doesn’t look back at the dog whose leg was lost to diabetes and feel even worse. I hope she doesn’t walk away with the thought that they couldn’t keep the dog because dealing with diabetes is just too difficult to be worth it.

I hope that Madalaine and her dog only grow stronger, physically and emotionally, from this experience, and I hope they are able to meet up again after Petey moves in with a new owner. But sometimes the camera only captures the smiles, and the tears come after filming stops. We’ll never know.

Have you ever cared for a pet with diabetes? Did your experience in caring for yourself (or a family member) make it any easier to treat the animal?  Does it require a similar financial commitment?

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Posted on February 6, 2012, in Diabetes, News, Type 1 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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