When it comes to my own health, I’m not a hypochondriac. But what if we’re talking about 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 sure she’s embarking on her inevitable journey across the rainbow bridge. in sky. In 2020, I fitted her with the Whistle Go, a pet fitness tracker, to encourage her to walk at least 10 minutes a day. It didn’t go as I had planned. Two years later, I haven’t learned my lesson. For the past two weeks, Daisy has worn the $44.95 Whistle Health on her collar.
The Whistle Health is, as the name suggests, a more health-focused tracker than the Go. It generates a wellness score, which gives me an overview of Daisy’s health. I was also able to see how often Daisy scratches, licks, eats or drinks. Plus, it also tracks the quality of his sleep, not just the duration. Other useful features include a food portion calculator, pet-related tasks, and access to Whistle’s TV service. The last three weren’t options when I previously tested a Whistle tracker, and it was nice to consolidate my pet-related tasks into one app.
Before we go any further, there are a few things you need to know about Daisy. People have always been surprised by her age, as she is a vivacious woman prone to huffing arrogantly when things don’t go her way. She has, on several occasions, pretended to limp out of a walk and pretended to be sick, so I’d give her some extra turkey. Her favorite activities are eating, sleeping, and doing things she’s not supposed to. It basically runs CatOS on Dog hardware.
But, in the two years since I tested the Go, that has started to change. Daisy isn’t as cunning as she used to be. She is starting to go bald in some areas. She has cataracts and sometimes slips when walking on hardwood floors. She looks at the walls much more than before. During a recent checkup, our vet said Daisy was showing signs of cognitive decline and suggested I focus on “maintaining her quality of life.” This was part of the reason I was interested in trying Whistle Health in the first place. Maybe that would give some insight into his health and help me understand what was worth freaking out about and what was natural aging.
On the design side, I liked that the Health is light, 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 it to Daisy’s collar was easy with the Velcro backing. Although, when I put it on her, she gave me eyes that said “not that yet”. In my defense, it was a less strenuous experience due to the small size. The Whistle Go was just too big and heavy for her and was probably a big reason why her measurements were so wonky. The small size of the Whistle Health could also be due to the fact that it doesn’t include GPS tracking. It’s good if you have a dog that doesn’t walk much. It’s less good if you have an active pup that constantly escapes your yard.
I wasn’t surprised when Whistle Health told me that Daisy slept between 2 and 6 hours a day most of the time. I was more impressed that Health could identify when Daisy leaves for her midnight patrols. When I compared my sleep data to hers, you could see that we wake up around the same time every night because I have to help guide her to her pee or rescue her from a corner. (No, the nightlights didn’t help.)
It was also accurate at detecting how often Daisy licks and scratches. This was not the case when I tested the Whistle Go. At that time she was basically licking any textile she could find like a nervous tic. Now that she’s senile, she sticks to licking herself. As for scratching, I’m not sure she remembers how to do it anymore.
It was less accurate when it came to eating and drinking. I’ll settle for being a helicopter dog mom because I keep track of how much food Daisy eats in a spreadsheet. Aside from the times when she’s not feeling well or traveling with me, she eats every perfectly proportioned meal with a gleeful appetite. (Occasionally, she also steals the cat’s food.) Because she’s toothless, it takes her a while to lick her bowl. The Whistle Health, however, says she only spends an average of 7.5 minutes eating a day and eats less than the average dog. Seems dodgy to me.
As for drinking, Daisy does her best to imitate a cactus. (Probably because she gets most of her water from wet food.) Frankly, the only time I see her drinking is on long trips in the summer or because she feels like upsetting the cat. by sullying the purity of its water fountain. However, Whistle Health says she drinks significantly more than the average dog. Again, fishy.
Nothing was as blatant, however, as his daily activity. Earlier this week, Whistle Health said Daisy had walked 8.6 miles. It’s impossible. She has tiny legs that she has no desire to use for anything other than carrying herself around in her food bowl. At most, she takes a few laps around the apartment, sniffing shoes and crying because she once again got stuck behind the TV console. On average, Health said she walked between 3 and 4 miles a day. It’s the equivalent of a lap around a local park. It takes me, a healthy person walking 15 minutes, a whole hour to do it. Daisy won’t, I repeat, will not walk more than 50 feet outdoors. I mapped his usual route through our apartment. It’s about 25 feet. My towel calculations tell me she would have to do about 845 laps to reach four miles.
Even so, it’s still a marked improvement over the numbers I got with the Whistle Go. This tracker once said she walked a mile in a minute. Despite my best efforts, Daisy hasn’t walked a continuous mile in years.
While I liked what the Whistle Health brought overall, I had a few gripes. For example, the tracker dropped Bluetooth or failed to sync often enough. This usually fixes itself, but it makes you less likely to open the app. Also, the last thing I need is waking up at 4am to Daisy hovering above me, the Bluetooth light flashing in my eyes for no reason. My other complaint was that since the device is Bluetooth only, I couldn’t see its measurements over a weekend. Did it ultimately matter? No, but my anxiety would have appreciated any proof that she was fine because my pet sitter only sporadically sends pictures.
The average pet owner probably doesn’t need this device, especially since it requires a subscription: $9.95 per month; $60 for one year; or $108 for two years. This is especially useful if your dog has chronic health issues or if you need a little help reducing weight. If you like having your vet on speed dial, this can also be a convenient alternative since you can text, chat or video call a vet to see if you really need to go for emergency care.
In the end, I recognize that it is more for me than for her. Daisy is getting older and nearing the end of a Yorkie’s lifespan. No device can change that. I don’t need data to figure this out. I should probably spend as much time with her as possible instead of trying to figure out every supplement, food or aptitude tracker this could prolong his already long life. But pets are part of the family, and in Daisy’s case, she’s all I have left of my dad. It’s easier to bundle all that baggage into a 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 did a little dance when I took the tracker off her.
Photography by Victoria Song / The Verge