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The Prayer That Saved Vinny

They were told their beloved Italian greyhound’s diabetes was untreatable. Then her husband had the strangest dream.

By Nancy Carlson, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

As appeared in

Dr. Lukens’s voice was gentle but his words were crushing. “There’s nothing more we can do for Vinny,” our veterinarian said. “His body isn’t responding to the insulin, but if we continue to increase his units, he will die.”

I couldn’t even look at my husband, Kameron. I knew if I did, I’d break down. And I didn’t want Vinny, our nine-yearold Italian greyhound, to panic. He’d already been through so much, and of all our dogs, he was the most sensitive to people’s feelings, especially mine.

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Fighting to remain calm, I held Vinny and stroked his side. His ribs jutted out. Even for a slender breed, he was too thin. Dangerously thin.

Because of his diabetes. More to the point, because we couldn’t find a way to manage his diabetes. I’d first noticed something was wrong eight months earlier.

Vinny was going out more often to urinate, and he started eating ravenously and drinking more too. One day he lapped up two bowls of water in less than five minutes. Despite his increased appetite, he was losing weight. “I think it might be diabetes,” Kameron said. “My dad had the same symptoms.”

We took Vinny to the vet for tests. “It’s rare in Italian greyhounds,” Dr. Lukens said, “but Vinny has diabetes mellitus.” I’d been prepared for the diagnosis because of Kameron’s suspicions. Still, I gasped. It was a shock to actually hear the words.

Dr. Lukens reassured me. It was less complicated to manage diabetes in a dog than in a human, he said. A big part of controlling diabetes is controlling diet, and owners control what their dogs eat. Unlike humans, dogs can’t usually cheat on their diets.

“You’ll have to make some changes, but Vinny can lead a full, healthy life.” Kameron was confident too. “I did a ton of reading about diabetes to help my dad,” he reminded me. “I know we can help Vinny.”

Taking care of a dog with diabetes means establishing a consistent routine–the key to keeping blood-sugar levels stable, Dr. Lukens told us–and that’s what we did for Vinny. Insulin injections twice a day, the same time every day. Meals with the same type and amount of food at the same time every day.

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We rejiggered our schedules to make sure one of us was always there for Vinny–when he needed insulin, when he needed to be fed, when he needed to go out. We run our own financial-planning business, so we had some flexibility.

Kameron took the toughest shifts, taking Vinny out at 1:00 a.m., then getting up again at 5:00 to give him his first shot of insulin.

We went back and forth to the vet to check his bloodsugar readings and adjust his insulin dosage. Dr. Lukens had told us it might take some time–weeks, even–to figure out the right dosage for Vinny. But months went by, and his health got worse. He dropped from 21 to 14 pounds.

He was drinking two gallons of water a day–his body’s attempt to get rid of excess sugar–but was so dehydrated that if I tugged his skin, it remained tented.

He was up to 14 units of insulin a day, yet his blood-sugar levels skyrocketed to 394–way out of the normal range of 80 to 110. That, in turn, led to cataracts and blindness. The saddest thing was watching our energetic little dog grow listless and lethargic, as if he’d lost all his joy in life.

“I’m sorry,” Dr. Lukens told us now. “I wish there was some resolution for Vinny’s condition. Just try to keep him as comfortable as you can for as long as you can.” How long will that be? I wondered. I couldn’t bring myself to ask.

That evening we settled on the couch after dinner, Vinny resting in my lap and our other dog, Leo, snuggled beside Kameron. When Vinny licked my hand weakly, I couldn’t hold back my emotions any longer. Tears coursed down my cheeks.