When it comes to my own health, I’m not a hypochondriac. But what if we’re talking about Daisy, my 17-year-old 4.5-pound Yorkie? Every sneeze, every meal she does not finish, or every time she loses a fight she started with our 18-pound cat – I’m convinced she’s embarking on her inevitable journey across rainbow bridge. In 2020, I equipped her with Whistle Go, a pet trainer, to encourage her to walk at least 10 minutes a day. It did not turn out as I had planned. Two years later, I have not learned my lesson. For the past two weeks, Daisy has rocked $ 44.95 Whistle Health on her collar.
Whistle Health is, as the name suggests, a more health-focused tracker than Go. It generates a fitness score, which gives me an overall picture of Daisy’s health. I also got to see how often Daisy scratches, licks, eats or drinks. In addition, it also tracks her sleep quality – not just the duration. Other useful features include a food portion calculator, pet-related to do and access to Whistle’s TV service. The last three were not options when I previously tested a Whistle tracker, and it was nice to consolidate my pet-related data into a single app.
Before I go any further, there are some things you should know about Daisy. People have always been amazed at how old she is because she is a nimble lady who tends to be snooty cool when things do not go the way she wants. She has on several occasions faked a halt to get out of a walk and pretended to be sick so I would give her some extra turkey. Her favorite activities are eating, sleeping and doing things she should not do. She basically runs CatOS on Dog hardware.
But in the two years since I tested Go, things have started to change. Daisy is not as cunning as she used to be. She is starting to get bald in some places. She has cataracts, and she sometimes slips when she walks on wooden floors. She stares at walls much more than she used to. At a recent checkup, our veterinarian said that Daisy showed signs of cognitive impairment and suggested that I focus on “maintaining her quality of life.” That was part of the reason I was interested in trying Whistle Health in the first place. Maybe it would give some insight into her health and help me find out what was worth freaking out about and what was naturally aging.
In terms of design, I appreciated that Health is light, thin and small. Battery life was also strong. I have been testing this device for two weeks and still have not had to charge it. Attaching it to Daisy’s collar was easy thanks to the velcro support. But when I put it on her, she gave me eyes that said “not this again.” In my defense, this has been a less difficult experience due to the smaller size. Whistle Go was simply too big and heavy for her and was probably a big reason why her measurements were so crappy. The smaller size of Whistle Health may also be due to it not includes GPS tracking. It is good if you have a dog that does not walk that much. It is less good if you have an active puppy who is constantly fleeing your backyard.
I was not surprised when Whistle Health told me that Daisy usually sleeps about 14-18 hours a day. I was more impressed that health could point out when Daisy goes on her midnight patrols. When I compared my sleep data with hers, you could see that we wake up at about the same time each night because I have to help guide her to her urinal or save her from a corner. (No, night lights have not helped.)
It was also accurate when it discovered how often Daisy licked and scratched herself. This was not the case when I tested Whistle Go. At that time, she basically licked what textile she could find as a nervous tic. Now that she’s senile, she’s sticking to licking herself. When it comes to scratching, I’m not sure she remembers how to do it anymore.
It was less accurate when it came to eating and drinking. I will be a helicopter dog mom because I keep track of how much food Daisy eats in a spreadsheet. Apart from the times when she does not feel well or travels with me, she eats every meal with perfect proportions with joy. (Sometimes she steals the cat’s food too.) Since she is toothless, it takes quite a long time for her to lick her bowl clean. However, The Whistle Health says she only eats an average of 7.5 minutes a day and eats less than the average dog. Sounds shady to me.
When it comes to drinking, Daisy does her best to imitate a cactus. (Probably because she gets most of her water from wet food.) Honestly, the only time I see her drink is on long summer trips or because she feels like antagonizing the cat by soiling the purity of his water fountain. But Whistle Health says she drinks a lot more than the average dog. Again, shady.
However, nothing was quite as spectacular as her daily activity. Earlier this week, Whistle Health said Daisy walked 8.6 miles. This is impossible. She has small legs that she has no desire to use for anything other than transporting herself to her food bowl. Most of what she does is a few laps around the apartment, sniffing shoes and crying because she is once again stuck behind the TV console. On average, Health reported that she walked somewhere between 3 and 4 miles a day. It is equivalent to a lap around a local park. It takes me, a healthy person who walks a mile in 15 minutes, a whole hour to do that. Daisy is not coming, I repeat, comes not walk more than 50 feet outside. I mapped her usual path in our apartment. It’s about 25 feet. My napkin math tells me she would need to do about 845 laps to hit four miles.
Nevertheless, this is still a marked improvement over the numbers I got with Whistle Go. That tracker once said she walked a mile in a minute. Despite my efforts, Daisy has not walked a mile continuously in several years.
While I liked what Whistle Health was all about, I had a couple of complaints. For example, the tracker lost Bluetooth or could not sync quite often. It usually worked out, but it makes you less likely to open the app. The last thing I need is also to wake up again at 04:00 with Daisy hovering over me, the Bluetooth light flashes in my eyes for no reason. My second complaint was that I could not see her measurements when I was on a weekend trip because the device is only for Bluetooth. Did it matter in the end? No, but my anxiety would have appreciated all the evidence that she was fine because my vet only occasionally sends pictures.
The average pet owner probably does not need this unit, especially since you will need to sign up for a subscription: $ 9.95 per month; $ 60 for one year; or $ 108 for two years. This is most useful if your dog has chronic health problems or if you need some help losing weight. If you like to have your vet on a quick selection, this can also be a practical option because you can text, chat or video call a vet to see if you really need to go to the emergency room.
At the end of the day, I realize that this is more for me than for her. Daisy is getting older and nearing the end of a Yorkie’s life expectancy. No device can change that. I do not need any data to understand that. I should probably just spend as much time with her as possible instead of trying to figure out every supplement, food or condition tracker which can prolong her already long life. But pets are family, and in Daisy’s case, she’s all I have left of my dad. It’s easier to cram all this luggage into one tracker and app that helps me feel productive. It temporarily relieves my anxiety – even though I know it’s just a placebo.
As for Daisy, the geriatric bugger danced a little dance when I took the tracker from her.
Photograph by Victoria Song / The Verge
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