The Accidental Mommy

by Justine Saracen

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?

9 Responses to “The Accidental Mommy”

  1. 1 Carol P. December 30, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    To that last sentence I say, Absolutely!



  2. 2 connie ward December 30, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    So well done Justine, and now you know how us dog lovers feel!!



  3. 3 Lisa Girolami December 30, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    You’ve caught the magic and wonder of dog love perfectly, Justine. And I laughed quite a bit. Enjoy the best friend you’ll ever have. And post a picture somewhere!
    Lisa G


  4. 4 Kathie Solie December 30, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Just over a year ago, this cat lover welcomed a tiny Chihuahua into her home (along with her owner). I can relate to every word you wrote. Thanks for describing the conversion in words, as only you can do so eloquently.


  5. 5 bookgeek December 31, 2010 at 4:07 AM

    who knew indeed . I was always afraid of dogs … and then a good friend adopted an Italian stray. Gianna — the wonder dog . Gianna and I have an ongoing love affair (she loves my wife as well so no problems there) and I wait like a hawk for any longer vacation my friend is going on so that I can dog sit. And of course Gianna who is a very well behaved dog may sleep in our bed. Where else? My wife had other ideas until the first night . And no problem of getting up early or late to walk THE DOG, ie the wonder dog. Who knew indeed . Thanks.


  6. 6 Devlyn December 31, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    From one dog lover to another, what a wonderful thing you have done to give this bundle of joy a new life. May she always bring you joy and love.


  7. 7 Emi December 31, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    Tinker with the penultimate chapter a tad and you have the makings of the perfect partner – in any species 🙂
    Dyson’s a great choice; hope it holds up well for you.


  8. 8 Kelly Buchanan January 1, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    Justine – you inspire us. We understand what it’s like to become adoptive parents to a pet who’s owner has become quite ill or has passed away. We got a standoffish cat when an elderly couple moved into a nursing home. He scared the crap out of us. Hissed at us every time we tried to pet him. One day he jumped up on the couch and patted my arm. At that moment he had decided he would allow us to be friends. Sadly – he’s gone but lived a great life. When my sister passed away we took her 2 cats….1 aged and 1 quite young. The young one lives on – and rules the house. When she’s gone we have contemplated getting a dog…..but we’ve never been “dog people”. However – after reading this….I think that you might be on to something……



  9. 9 lynchly February 1, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Congratulations! I am not a dog person, but always seem to have one. Fortunately, Elaine fell for Beastie very quickly and now the Beast won’t leave her side. She is a little treasure. (both of them actually)


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