I didn’t wanna do it.
It is a truism that most lesbians have pets. I myself have helped make up this population for thirty years as an owner/servant of cats, and then for another five or six as a co-habitant of budgies and lovebirds.
However…full disclosure here…I was a pet snob. I didn’t do dogs.
Dogs, I felt, were for a more rough and tumble, less refined lesbian than I. Dogs could be loveable, I freely acknowledged, but they were over the top, had body odor, and stinky breath, and they tended to lick you under the chin and leave pungent saliva on your hands. And then there was the twice-daily ‘walkies’ and the warm steaming plastic bag you occasionally had to carry away. Not for me, thank you very much.
Then, out of nowhere, my friend Françoise called to say her friend Adele had suffered a sudden stroke. Adele’s aged cat was already put to sleep, and since Françoise’s house was already full of animals, Adele’s family was frantic to find someone to take the dog so that they wouldn’t have to kill her as well. To be specific, they desperately needed someone who 1) loved animals, 2) was thoroughly responsible, and 3) worked at home, like a – ahem— writer.
The description sounded eerily familiar.
What kind of dog, I asked hesitantly, sensing the unmistakable presence of a hook about to lock into my jaw. I live in a tiny house, so if it was the big romping-on-the-beach kind, I’d be off the hook, so to speak.
No, it was a lapdog, Françoise replied. A mix of two adorable small breeds, who could melt glaciers with her big brown eyes.
Welllll, I said. I’ll take a look at her. But I had asthma, and too much dog hair in the house could kill me. And I didn’t even have a good vacuum cleaner.
No problem, Françoise said. And I’ll help you pick out a nice dust-free, anti-allergic vacuum cleaner. It could raise your whole standard of living.
Oooookay, I mumbled and about four seconds after I hung up, Françoise was at the door, doggie in arms.
Well, it took one look for my maternal hormones to kick in. The sad little creature was so adorable, I nearly lactated. But she was also bereaved, having been kept for a week by a guardian while her owner lay in a coma before succumbing. The dog whimpered and ran to the door at every sound, expecting it to be Mommy come at last to take her home. But of course it never was, never would be. It was heart breaking.
Even if time does not erase sorrow, it dulls it, and so in a few days we got to know each other and negotiated a modus vivendi. ‘Negotiate’ may not be the right word. I had, for example, made an ironclad resolve NOT to let her sleep with me – a resolve that evaporated the first night. Then I explained to her that she had to stay far away from my face, upon which she made herself comfortable on my chest.
She got a new name, Cherubino, which my friends immediately changed to the French Cherubin (Sher oo ban).
The dog was free, though I knew the whole project would involve some cost. Most important was asthma prevention. Françoise accompanied me to the appliance store and took command of my credit card. I heard only the rapid and largely unintelligible discussion in French about ‘l’aspirateur le plus anti-allergique” and the obedient clicking of my fingers typing out my pin code into the little machine at the sales desk. Then, the deal was done. I had bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner, for 400 Euros. I swallowed hard, but moved onto the pet store where I purchased a handsome carrying sack (40 Euros) a doggie winter coat (60 Euros), a stretchy leash, 2 squeaky toys, puppy shampoo and three kilos of special chow (45 Euros).
When I got home, with Cherubin alternating between my lap and my chest, I calculated: I had spent five hundred forty five Euros ($726). For a used dog.
It was worth every penny.
What an experience to have something that loves you grovelingly, submissively, and unconditionally. Who whimpers with ecstasy when you scratch her chest, goes hysterical with joy when you come back from the grocery store, lets you put on her clunky but stylish winter coat and parade her through the streets of Brussels. Who doesn’t mind being shampooed after she gets into the garbage. Who looks up at you with big sad eyes when she pees in the park to make sure you know she has held it until the right moment.
So THIS is why lesbians have dogs. Who knew?