After you lose a pet, regular exercise and stress management may prove more difficult.
Two weeks ago, my family and I lost our darling mini-schnauzer, Noodle. Her death was sudden and heartbreaking, and, though she lived to age 13, it came much too soon.
Noodle was my first dog and was my partner in diabetes care. She didn’t have diabetes, but we shared a bit of a weight issue, and we both felt better when we ate well and exercised regularly.
Her five walks a day (I didn’t say she wasn’t spoiled), added an extra boost to my exercise program of recumbent biking and weightlifting, in addition to helping me time my blood glucose readings. Three of her walks landed with regularity two hours after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So before we set out, Noodle waited — sometimes impatiently — for me to test my sugars.
Not to mention that she proved a great stress reliever, nudging me to rise from my desk for our daily rousing game of fetch at exactly 5 in the afternoon each day. At night, we shared snack time: a handful of nuts for me, a Milk-Bone for her — and a few relaxing ear and belly rubs.
Needless to say, I miss her terribly.
But now that she is gone, it’s up to me to figure out how to continue healthy habits without her. So in her memory, I’ve devised some hacks to keep me on track.
1. I’ll Continue to Move It
Although it makes me sad to walk without Noodle, I’ve resolved to add some extra steps to my regular exercise routine. While I can’t guarantee that I’ll stick to Noodle’s exact schedule, I’m going to try to keep up the healthy habit — aiming for 5,000 to 10,000 steps per day. And they don’t have to be aerobic steps: In honor of Noodle, who spent more time sniffing the ground than covering it, my walks will be leisurely strolls, designed to keep me moving in the fresh air. Like Noodle, I’m going to start appreciating the scenery.
2. I’ll Stick to My Meal Plan
While Noodle — named after my favorite carbohydrate — partnered with me on sticking to our meal plans, I’m going to learn to become more conscious of how much I chow down on my own. Measuring out Noodle’s food with a measuring cup was a daily chore but a good model: I’m going to try to remember to measure out my servings, particularly at dinner, with more regularity.
3. I’ll Stay on Top of My Blood Sugar
An alarm isn’t quite the same as a dog nose burrowing into your thigh, urging you to leave your desk and get going, but it can provide a gentle reminder of what needs to be done when you’re lost in work. Without Noodle, I’ve already noticed that I’ve slacked off, recording my blood sugar readings with less frequency. My plan is to set my phone alarm based on Noodle’s old walking schedule to clue me in to pricking my finger and noting down my daily glucose numbers.
4. I’ll Manage My Stress Levels
When it comes to relieving stress, there simply is no substitute for playing fetch with an excited dog — just the rhythm of throwing the ball and having her come back breathlessly waiting for you to please, please throw it again can’t be replaced. Everything about it made me smile. Without Noodle, I’m going to try to use our former half-hour fetching time to learn to meditate, work on my oil paintings, or simply read a book to detox from the workday.
5. I’ll Care for My Emotional Health
Diabetes is as much a mental as a physical disease, and for managing symptoms, I’ve found emotional well-being is key. Anyone who has a dog knows how they are social magnets. In the 20-some years, we’ve lived in our very dog-centric neighborhood, most of the people I know well are from our dog connections. As a person who works from a home office, it’s important for my mental health to see people, so I’ve decided to bring dog biscuits on my walks, so even if I don’t have a dog, I can befriend the ones I see (and their owners).
None of these efforts will replace Noodle, of course. And none of it makes me miss her any less. But keeping up the good habits we developed together creates a kind of legacy of Noodle’s therapy, where I took care of her, and, in so many ways, she took care of me.