Not everything in a lesbian’s life is about women, sex, love, romance, or women and love, or thinking about talking to or being with and touching, loving, living and playing with and cuddling women. Hard to believe I know. There actually IS more to a lesbian’s life than simply loving women. Like work, paying the bills, friends, art, (or sports for the sports puppies) or school for the school-aged and academic lesbians, or shopping and cooking and travel and reading and gaming and dancing and yoga and family, or wondering about the state of the world, trying to be a better person, and taking care of pets. We wake up, we go to the bathroom, some of us have espresso, we eat we get dressed, we go about our days, our evenings and our nights and we go to sleep and we dream. Some of those dreams involve women, and sometimes they don’t. We’re human that way. And so it is with that context that I am sharing a vignette of a lesbian’s life that has nothing to do with women.
I made it to the first step past the landing when I sat myself down, put my elbows on my knees, my head in my hands and just cried.
Nearly three weeks ago, I finally rescued a dog from an unhappy situation, made worse by the fact that the dog I rescued was from a close(ish) family member. Navigating that situation over eight weeks was fraught with all sorts of nuanced emotional steel traps that I agonized over so that I wouldn’t lose a body part in the process. I was told in no uncertain terms when I first broached the subject of taking the dog that “we love him, and couldn’t bear to be without him.” Then came the email that said, “we’ve thought more about your offer. We’d love to have you rehome him.”
I might like animals. I have two well-trained dogs and a talking bird. If I could, I would also have a cat or two and a dwarf bunny, a miniature horse, a miniature pig and a unicorn if I could. But I live in the city so I can’t. It’s just not practical: unicorns are notoriously difficult to keep in the city.
Rescue dog was not neutered. Rescue dog has not had vaccinations. Rescue dog is not socialized. Rescue dog is afraid of everything. He appears to not like people of a certain culture, of which there are many in my neighbourhood. Rescue dog was kept in a crate in the basement and at times, unclean.
It was hell on wheels here for the first week, but following some complicated and expensive surgery to neuter him, the tension between him and my other dogs has eased. But he is afraid of the world and does not know how to behave so training is needed.
Morning walks — ostensibly a lesson in socializing for him — are a lesson in patience for me. Sometimes I take all three of them. Other times I walk them one at a time. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. This day I took all three of them out. This day that strategy to socialize him did not work.
ALL three dogs were doing strange and not-so-wonderful things for no reason that I could discern. So what that it was a full moon? Dogs don’t read calendars. At one point, Rescue dog lurched so sharply midway through our walk that it wrenched my right wrist. I cut short the walk. I’d had it.
When I got to my front door I made them sit while I went in first then stood in the doorway and invited each one in separately, in as loving a tone I could manage — dogs hear frustration and I didn’t want to frighten them, specially Rescue dog. To my amazement, they each did as asked, entering the house only when they were invited. How about that?
I unhooked their leashes and headed upstairs, desperately needing to be alone. And as soon as I hit the first step I had three dogs at my knees. For the last three weeks, I have had three shadows. It has been wearing. I’m not good without solitude. I couldn’t take it: I got to the first step past the first landing and sat down. The dogs each found a spot on the landing to sit and look at me. I couldn’t look at them: I put my head down and cried.
They hadn’t done anything but be dogs. I was being a silly human. I expected things to move along at my pace, the way I needed it to so that the disruption to my life would be little to none. Of course, this has been my experience with animals, except for the cat I rescued — a whole other story for another time. Like all humans, I was using the past, experiences, interpretations and information to predict the current and future situation with this dog; using the information in my little lesbian brain to draw the conclusion of: here is how it will be because that is how it has always been.
Wrong, wrong wrong, wrapped in crap. Thinking that is so…lazy. Perhaps it’s expedient from an evolutionary perspective, giving us a point to start in thinking, but seriously, it’s just dumb, lazy thinking to stay at the starting line. And that’s what I had done. Did not even consider the individual dog that was before me. While I know –logically — it’s wrong to think that way, somehow, I’d totally forgotten that in this situation. I was acting on assumptions and oh my goddess, assumptions were biting my buttocks, and hard.
Hot, burning tears of frustration. I’d reached a point of being completely emotionally overwhelmed: I couldn’t cope. Not with the truths I had learned about family members. Not with the fact that it might take months to find Rescue dog a new home. Not with my own ambivalence: for a minute, in frustration, I became this horrid person that was going to give him back to family member with a few choice words, but strangely, as that thought entered my mind, I saw the horror movie of his dark future with them run through my mind and was deeply disappointed that I even had the thought.
It is unusual for me to respond to challenging situations with tears. But there I was, an adult, a woman who happens to be a lesbian, weeping. On the stairs. Over a dog that crashed into my assumptions — assumptions I work hard not to have. Tears of disappointment and frustration. I was having a moment of utter misery. The lump in my throat was the size of a soccer ball. And my eyeliner and blush were a mess and my nose was red and running and my eyes red. Goddess I hate the mess of crying.
Big black dog nudged me. Little dog wriggled under my elbow. Rescue dog put his chin on my leg.
I took a deep, cleansing yoga breath that kinda choked. Shakey breath after crying. Why is that? As I calmed my breathing, I petted heads: standard poodle head, little terrier head and Rescue dog’s cockapoo head. They got excited and started vying for the real estate of my hand and I felt even worse that I hadn’t found a way to be reasonable, to talk myself through it so I could hold it together.
End of rewind
Today, he’s out with the dog walker for the second time. The first time we tried it, he managed to slip his collar and bolt across one of the biggest and busiest roads in Toronto, without getting hit. Dogwalker came back to say that Rescue dog was lost. I put on my best dog thinking cap to figure out where he might go and 15 minutes later that’s where I found him. One street away and in a complete panic: it took all day to calm him. A heart-stopping time and not in a good way.
There’s now a poster at the vet’s office for Rescue dog. I want to make sure he goes to a good home, to someone with experience with dogs; to someone known if not to me, then to someone who is known to people I know. However, seems it’s a challenging time to find new homes for dogs and cats.
In the meantime, it’s slow going with Rescue dog, but it is going. He loves car rides, going for walks, belly rubs, bits of apple and the taste of yogurt, dancing, going to the park and taking all the toys out of the toy box. He hasn’t learned to put them back yet. I think it’ll be a good thing to tell his new owners: not only does he take his toys out, but he puts them away too.
Two weeks after writing that post, I got a call responding to the ad in the vet’s window. A man walking by was touched by Rescue dog’s story on the poster. He and his wife had lots of experience with dogs, and had been looking to find a rescue dog in need of a good home. We spent an hour on the phone: I had a lot of questions. In that two weeks since the last post, Rescue dog had started to settle, had started to play with my dogs, had started to come when called, had started to sit at the corner before crossing the road. I still had three shadows following me everywhere but oddly, I was getting used to it. We’d bonded Rescue dog and me and this, giving him up, was was going to be hard.
The man on the phone and I made a plan to meet outside the vet’s office the next evening. Rescue dog took immediately to the woman and then, surprisingly to the guy. Until now, he had not responded well to men wanting to touch him. But it seemed to me that they all fit. They made a family.
I gave them his leash and we walked. We all walked and talked for about an hour and because it was nearby, we went to their house to see how Rescue dog would fare with their cat. We arrived at a large house on a dead end street, not too far from the vet’s office. Cat and dog looked at each other through the glass door, and then when the door was opened, they each held their spot, so it seemed cat tolerated Rescue dog. It all went very well and we left with an agreement to talk later.
They had to discuss everything, and I had to decide not only if it was okay for them to take him, but could I give him up. How do people who foster animals do this?? Was it good for them to take him? Well, let’s see: big house near the beach. One owner active and semi-retired. Love at first sight. The phone rang as we got home and it was them. They said if I agreed that they would be good owners, they would love to take him. I told them I thought they were perfect. There was a lump in my throat. That was a Friday night of a long weekend. We agreed that Monday was best for them to come and get him. On Sunday I got a call asking if they could come at the end of the day, since they were both home and they wanted him. The lump in my throat got bigger. I said yes.
That Sunday morning, all of the dogs got to go to a new dog park nearby. Rescue dog ran around with the other dogs being happy and carefee, and then: oh. my. goddess. There was a big, muddy puddle in the middle of this off-leash dog area and Rescue dog, a creamy coloured cockapoo was right in the middle of that muddly squishy puddle, on his back, legs kicking up in the air, his body a-wigglin’ and a-squishin’ in the mud. He stood up, watery mud dripping down from his little round crown. He was smiling and happy and wagging his stumpy little tail. Apparently, it is a thing cocker spaniels do; roll in muddy places. Poodles do not do that. I could only laugh, which seemed to make him smile more. He emanated goofy happy dog energy right up until I put him in the tub to wash him.
They came at 4:40 p.m. to take him home, They came bearing many bottles of wine. We talked briefly. All of Rescue dog’s stuff was ready. We didn’t draw it out, but I told them that if they changed their mind, call me. I walked him to the front porch as his new owners went to their Jeep, he to drive, and, she, well, she opened the back door, got in and called Rescue dog and jumped in without hesitation, sitting down perfectly beside her. She leaned across him to close the door. As the Jeep left the curb, Rescue dog turned his head to look back, his big, round brown eyes looking back at the porch. Tears streamed down my face as a chunk of something lodged in my throat; I couldn’t breathe. I was watching a piece of my heart ride away.
A year later:
Rescue dog is doing well and is happy. He goes for long walks at the waterfront, hangs at the dog park, plays, is ignored by the cat, gets groomed, gets to choose his own toys at the pet store and is loved, loved, loved to bits. And strange but true, I miss him to this day.