When it comes to my own health, I’m not a hypochondriac. But speaking of Daisy, my 4.5 pound 17-year-old Yorkie? Every sneeze, every meal she doesn’t 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 the rainbow bridge† In 2020, I outfitted her with the Whistle Go, a pet fitness tracker, to encourage her to walk at least 10 minutes a day. It didn’t go the way I planned† Two years later, I haven’t learned my lesson. For the past two weeks, Daisy has been shaking the $44.95 Whistle Health on her collar.
The Whistle Health, as the name suggests, is a more health-oriented tracker than the Go. It generates a well-being score, which gives me an overall picture of Daisy’s health. I was also able to see how often Daisy scratches, licks, eats or drinks. Plus, it also tracks her sleep quality — not just duration. Other useful features include a food portion calculator, pet tasks, and access to Whistle’s televet service. The last three weren’t options when I tested a Whistle tracker before, and it was nice to consolidate my pet-related tasks within one app.
Before I go any further, there are a few things you should know about Daisy. People have always been amazed at how old she is because she is a spry lady who tends to pant cocky when things aren’t going well. She has pretended to limp several times to get out of a walk and pretended to be sick so I would give her a little extra turkey. Her favorite activities are eating, sleeping and doing things she is not supposed to do. She basically runs CatOS on Dog hardware.
But in the two years since I tested the Go, that has changed. Daisy isn’t as cunning as she used to be. In some places she is starting to go bald. She has cataracts and she sometimes slips when walking on hardwood floors. She stares at walls a lot more than she used to. At a recent checkup, our vet said Daisy was showing signs of cognitive decline and suggested I focus on ‘maintaining her quality of life’. It was one of the reasons I was interested in trying the Whistle Health in the first place. Maybe it would give some insight into her health and help me figure out what was worth freaking out about and what natural aging was.
In terms of design, I appreciated that the Health is lightweight, thin and small. Battery life was also strong. I’ve been testing this device for two weeks and still haven’t had to charge it. Attaching to Daisy’s collar was easy thanks to the Velcro back. But when I did it to her, she gave me eyes that said, “not this again.” In my defense, this was a less grueling experience due to its smaller size. The Whistle Go was just too big and heavy for her and was probably a big reason her stats were so shaky. The Whistle Health’s smaller size may also be due to the fact that it not including GPS tracking. That’s fine if you have a dog that doesn’t walk a lot. It’s less nice if you have an active puppy that constantly escapes from your backyard.
I wasn’t surprised when Whistle Health told me that Daisy usually sleeps 14-18 hours a day. I was more impressed that the Health was able to locate when Daisy goes on her midnight patrols. When I compared my sleep data with hers, you could see that we wake up around the same time every night because I have to help her pee or rescue her from a corner. (No, night lights didn’t help.)
It was also accurate in detecting how often Daisy licks and scratches. This was not the case when I tested the Whistle Go. At the time, she basically licked every textile she could find like a nervous tic. Now that she is senile, she continues to lick herself. As for scratching, I’m not sure if she remembers how to scratch.
It was less accurate when it came to food and drink. I will make sure to become a helicopter dog mom because I keep a spreadsheet on how much food Daisy eats. Aside from the times she’s feeling unwell or traveling with me, she eats every perfectly proportioned meal with joyful enthusiasm. (She also sometimes steals the cat’s food.) Being toothless, she takes a long time to lick her bowl clean. However, The Whistle Health says she only spends an average of 7.5 minutes a day eating and eating less than the average dog. Sounds fishy to me.
As for 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 drinking is on long car rides in the summer or because she feels like chasing the cat against her by the to tarnish the purity of his water fountain. However, the Whistle Health says she drinks a lot more than the average dog. Again, fish.
However, nothing was more blatant than her daily activities. Earlier this week, the Whistle Health said Daisy ran 8.6 miles. This is impossible. She has tiny legs that she doesn’t want to use for anything but to transport herself to her food bowl. Mostly she does a few laps around the apartment, sniffing shoes and crying because she got stuck behind the TV console again. On average, the Health reported walking anywhere from 3 to 4 miles a day. That’s the equivalent of a round of a local park. It takes me, a healthy person walking a 15 minute mile, a whole hour to do that. Daisy will not, I repeat, shall not walk more than 50 feet outside† I mapped out her usual route in our apartment. It’s about 25 feet. My napkin calculation tells me she would have to do about 845 laps to get four miles.
Even so, this is still a marked improvement over the numbers I got with the Whistle Go. That tracker once said she ran a mile in a minute. Despite my best efforts, Daisy hasn’t run a straight mile in years.
While I liked what the Whistle Health in general brought, I had a few complaints. For example, the tracker dropped Bluetooth or failed to sync quite often. It usually resolves itself, but makes you less likely to open the app. The last thing I need is to wake up again at 4am with Daisy hovering above me, the Bluetooth light flashing in my eyes for no reason. My other complaint was that because the device only has Bluetooth, I couldn’t see its stats on a weekend trip. Did it matter in the end? No, but my fear would have appreciated any evidence that she was fine, as my pet sitter only sends out photos sporadically.
The average pet owner probably won’t need this device, especially since you have to sign up for a subscription: $9.95 per month; $60 for a year; or $108 for two years. This is especially helpful if your dog has chronic health issues or if you need some help reducing his weight. If you like to have your vet on speed-dial numbers, this can also be a handy alternative, as 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 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 don’t need any data to understand that. I should probably just spend as much time with her as possible instead of trying every supplement, food or… fitness tracker that could extend her already long life. But pets are family, and in Daisy’s case, she’s all I have left of my father. It’s easier to stuff all this baggage into a tracker and app that makes me feel productive. It relieves my anxiety for a moment – even when I know it’s just a placebo.
As for Daisy, the elderly fool was doing a little dance when I took the tracker off her.
Photography by Victoria Song / The Verge
#Whistle #Health #review #anxious #pet #parents