I don’t like my friend’s Yorkshire Terriers. They’re absurdly perfect. They’re trim around the middle, they look cute in sweaters and they can fit in her purse. They remind me that my Yorkie, or as my husband says, Porkie, is not perfect. His name is Joe and he has Cushing’s syndrome. Cushing’s means that Joe drinks a lot of water, so much so that he inflates like a football during the course of a day. In a Christmas sweater, Joe looks more like Santa Claus than an elf.
Cushing’s also means that Joe is always ravenous. My husband and I wake to the sound of soft whines at 5am each day. Incredulous, I check the time on my cell phone beside the bed. Not even daylight savings can fool my Yorkie — darkness or light, he wakes us at five. In the glow of the phone light, I can see him looking up at me. He bounces; his tiny paws lifting just a hair off the floor, just enough to punctuate his “words”. His pointed ear-tips flop on his head like banners waving, imploring me to pay attention to his needs. Joe’s tone grows more urgent, more demanding. His whimper becomes a yip and I realize that one of us is well trained.
I slip out of bed before my husband does, and follow Joe down the hall to the kitchen where, half asleep, I prepare the low fat, gluten free meal. Feeding Joe is like throwing slop to a pig. Before his bowl hits the floor Joe has his nose in it, snorting and grunting, kibbles fly about in the ensuing frenzy.
Cushing’s Syndrome is a disease where a dog’s body produces too much cortisol. Some of the symptoms are the potbelly and the extreme hunger and thirst. Another symptom is a weakness in his hind legs. Joe needs to go out to pee every two hours or so. His weak legs make it impossible to get down the two steps outside our door, so I carry him. On some days he has the energy to come up the stairs on his own, pulling his hind legs like a fish tail behind him. To me he is a champion of strength and fortitude. To my husband, he is just a pain in the ass. Joe doesn’t cuddle or play. We are not rewarded for our efforts.
Upon meeting my dog, a woman once exclaimed, “oh, look at that one, you could put a saddle on him!” and I felt as though she had called me a failure as a mother. I wanted to ask her to leave but I could see that she was admiring him even as she spoke those hateful words. I have heard people refer to Joe as “that little box,” and “that little shit,” among other things less appealing, but he has a way of winning them over with his sad yet tenacious personality. No, Joe doesn’t fit into a sweater or a purse; he’s not perfect, he’s just perfectly spoiled.