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Feb 1, 2021

Dogs, Diabetes and Upside-Down Houses

The Swedes invent an outcome-free study

By Ed Goldman

The dog days of winter are evidently upon me. Redently, a crossword clue about an “upward facing dog” led me to write about yoga poses. Today, a troubling study by Swedish scientists indicates that if your dog has diabetes, you may get it, too. Should I be concerned?

To the best of my knowledge, I have neither a dog nor diabetes. Yet. I was a dog owner for many years but have been a cat employee since 2007. So, unless Osborn the Magnificent, who’s 18-and-a-half years old, decides to call it a day, I’ll remain a feline fan.

Edgy Cartoon

Scooby Don’t

For cat lovers who just read that sentence and burst into tears because they thought by “call it a day” I meant Osborn shuffling off this mortal coil, I only meant his moving, probably to a larger home that only has upper stories. Cats are acrophiles, as you may know. They’ll stand on the highest-backed chair in your living room so they can get a better view out the window, or just of your living room. They’ll even climb on top of your head if you’ve allowed it only once in their lives, and remain there when you stand and try to talk them down. This is a preferred strategy to trying to shake them off, which they won’t allow—especially if you have a thick head of hair to cling to (your own or one purchased from the Sy Sperling people). In the absence of either of those, the skin on your scalp will suffice.  

I can envision Osborn moving in with someone who owns a so-called “upside-down” house: a hillside home you enter on the top floor and walk down three flights to your living room. These are very cool unless you buy one in Malibu, where almost every year the rains speed up erosion and the fires destroy your atrium, infinity pool and insurance rating. These homes are usually owned by Hollywood film and music producers and stars—which means when disaster strikes, they just as inevitably are interviewed amid their five-piece Gucci luggage sets in their driveways, valiantly vowing to rebuild. Walt Whitman’s “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” springs to mind.

So does the topic of today’s column, right when you least expected: dogs and diabetes. 

A study published in the international British Medical Journal, which looked both at Swedish medical records and Swedish pet insurance numbers, followed “208,980 dog-owner pairs and 123,566 cat-owner pairs for six years,” according to a recap in the New York Times. 

It gets disturbingly complicated after that. “Compared with dog owners without Type 2 diabetes, owners with the disease were older, more often men and less likely to have a university degree. Pet-owner pairs in which only the pet had diabetes were more often female, and more likely to have dogs that belonged to breeds with a high risk for the disease—for example, Border collies, Samoyeds and toy poodles.”

Okay, hang onto your Shih Tzu. There’s more.

“(R)esearchers found that people who owned diabetic dogs were 32 percent more likely to develop diabetes themselves than those who owned dogs that did not have diabetes.”

Here’s the kicker: “(T)he study was observational so could not prove cause and effect, and the exact reasons for the link are unknown.”

So what are we left with other than supposition?

SCENARIO #1: Lassie runs into the Martins’ farmhouse and does a series of desperate pantomimes. Mr. Martin asks, “What is it, girl? Did Timmie fall into the well again?” Lassie barks something that implies, “Yes!” Mr. Martin calmly puts down the wooden whistle he’s been carving for five seasons on CBS and asks, “Did you manage to save the candy bar I’d given him this morning in his lunch sack? Think, girl, think! It was a king size Kit Kat.” As the camera pans back, we see that Mr. Martin has put on enough pounds to be Chris Christie’s stuntman. So, sadly, has Lassie, who now answers to Massie.

SCENARIO #2: Scooby-Doo and the gang (Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne) know there’s treasure awaiting them in a mine but they’ve all grown too morbidly obese eating junk food to be able to squeeze through the adit. “We could always edit the adit,” Shaggy says with the wit long associated with the program. 

SCENARIO #3: After living with the wire fox terrier Asta and the little guy’s snack habits for years, Nora Charles divorces her husband Nick. But why? 

NORA: You’re not exactly “The Thin Man” anymore.

NICK: Darling, I never was. That was the scientist we were searching for in the first movie. Then the studio made a bunch of sequels and called them The Thin Man series and people thought it meant me. It’s how people think Frankenstein is the monster, not the guy who created him. Go back and watch our first movie. I was never all that thin. How could I be with all of those martinis we drank?

NORA: I think we should move to Sweden.

NICK: Why?

NORA: Because if you took all of their diabetes scientists and laid them end to end, they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion.

NICK: Like this column, perhaps.

NORA: Oh, Darling. You know me so well.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).