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Barrie boy becomes caregiver for family's diabetic cat

'I thought it was pretty amazing, because some adults can’t do it. I was impressed when I was told that he is doing it all,' local vet says of Taylor Green's skills

Barrie's Lisa Donley got some troubling news a few months ago that their beloved cat is suffering from diabetes.

“We were told that our cat Demon was diabetic and would need his blood-sugar levels checked twice daily, and would have to be given insulin if needed,” she tells BarrieToday.

“My 11-year-old son watched my brother doing this and decided he wanted to do it, so my brother trained him on how to test Demon’s blood, as well as how to administer the insulin shots when needed,” Donley says. “He now gives Demon his insulin shots and tests his blood on his own twice a day. Our vet was amazed to find this out as most 11-year-olds would not be interested in doing this.”

“He’s fine with it, but he doesn’t like it all the time,” admits son Taylor Green.

An added bonus is that Demon is a relaxed and laid-back sort of cat, and Green clearly has a lovely bond and friendship with the family feline.

Demon is a patient patient, as it were, and relaxes on a cushion with his front paws crossed. His ears are back, so he may not be completely comfortable with the situation, which is not surprising.

Green stands above him and preps his medical equipment for the task of testing Demon’s blood-sugar levels. He carefully adjusts the lamp on his forehead and aims it at the top of the cat, grasps an ear, concentrates, and gently pricks the skin to draw a sample of blood onto the test plate of his measuring electronic measuring device.

Demon doesn’t flinch at all. He’s used to this by now.

“Five point three,” Taylor reads out.

A good result.

“He doesn’t need any insulin or corn syrup,” he says confidently, as the use of such a treatment would be needed to prevent the cat from eventually going into a diabetic coma, if left untreated. “We think that he has no more diabetes."

His mother is also hopeful.

“With the treatments, it could eventually go away, but they have to be diligent and do the checks for a long time," she says. "I’m proud of him. When I was young, I couldn’t see myself doing this.”

Brian Backland, a former medic in the Canadian military, taught his nephew how to do this.

“He’s done very well with it," he says. "I’ve had medics who didn’t do as well on their first attempts (using needles). He practised on an orange as it closely simulates giving an intramuscular needle, in as far as the resistance, and it works very well.”

Their veterinarian, Dr. Dianne Lawrence, of VCA Canada Barrie Animal Hospital on Bayfield Street, told the family she's confident Demon may not be diabetic anymore. The family is now monitoring Demon and he has not required insulin for the past few weeks.

“I thought it was pretty amazing, because some adults can’t do it,” Lawrence says of the young boy’s effort in looking after his cat’s medical needs. “I was impressed when I was told that he is doing it all.”

With Green’s interest in doing the work himself, maybe this task could become a gateway to becoming a veterinarian.

“Hopefully,” she says with a laugh. “We need more veterinarians.”

The testing has been reduced to once daily instead of twice. If the tests continue to show improved results, then they will reduce it further to once per week for a month or two. And if the results continue to be good, the treatment can end, until symptoms arrive again, if they ever do.

The biggest feline diabetes symptom is usually “sticky pee,” as well as the cat drinking a lot more water than normal, hanging around the water dish and seemingly guarding it. Excessive, rapid weight loss is also one of the sign.

“He’s on special food, trying to keep his sodium intake and carbohydrates low," Backlund says. "He does, however, continue to get a few treats now and again. We can’t take his treats away from him. There’s no way. He won’t let you. He’s too demanding for that. He’ll tell you when it’s time for his treat.”

On top of all of this, Green is involved with the Barrie Baycats as their bat boy since last season and has volunteered with the team since he was four years old. He has also become a Level 1 umpire for Barrie Minor Baseball for this upcoming season.

Green says he loves being able to travel with the Baycats and thinks they will have a great year.

“We should make it to the top 3 (in the league),” he says proudly.

He will certainly have a full plate this summer, and if his monitoring and treatment of his pal Demon continues on this positive path, Green will be able to focus on baseball this summer, knowing that with all of his effort, his furry friend will enjoy the summer right along with him.

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Kevin Lamb

About the Author: Kevin Lamb

Kevin Lamb picked up a camera in 2000 and by 2005 was freelancing for the Barrie Examiner newspaper until its closure in 2017. He is an award-winning photojournalist, with his work having been seen in many news outlets across Canada and internationally
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