One of the primary concerns for a lady-loving-lady is her relationship with other lady-loving-ladies. But while these lady-on-lady relationships are important, they should not take attention away from another crucially important partnership in a queer lady’s life – her relationship with her dog. Girlfriends will love you and leave you, but your four-legged friend’s desire to wake you each morning with an enthusiastic lick will never waver.
Our furry partners in queerness deserve much attention and praise. For example, there’s my lab, who’s a wonderful asset to the gay blogosphere. While she doesn’t have the literacy skills of Tinkerbell, she nonetheless inspires me to write. All I need to say is, “I’m going to write an article for Autostraddle!” and her tail will start to wag enthusiastically as she runs to my desk. It doesn’t matter that to her, the verb “to write” has more to do with the pre-work belly-scratches I give than with the typing itself. Her excitement eventually gives way to contented snoring at my feet. Let me tell you that writing to the sound of dog-snores is, hands-off-the-keyboard, the best way to write.
All of this musing about queer ladies, dogs, and writing, got me thinking that I needed to make a list – a list of famous lesbian and bisexual lady writers who had (or have) dogs. So here you have it, the one and only list in the whole world wide web honouring the unique relationship of lady-loving-lady writers and their four-legged sources of dogspiration.
1. Rita Mae Brown
Rita Mae Brown has not only written about the adventures of the ambitious lady-loving Molly in Ruby Fruit Jungle. She also penned a lesser-known book, Animal Magnetism, in which she pays homage to the animals who’ve made her who she is, dogs included. She has this to say about her first dog, Chaps:
Chaps loved me, even when I was distant and just walking down a dirt road, oblivious to his overtures. He loved me when I was mean, which wasn’t often. He didn’t require that I be beautiful (good thing), smart, witty, or a fascinating conversationalist. He loved me and I loved him.
Later in her chapter on Chaps, she writes, “Chaps, while he taught me to communicate with dogs, taught me most about love. I can’t live without the love of dogs. I don’t know how anyone can.”
2. Mary Oliver
When it comes to poet Mary Oliver, I have so many feelings. Whenever I doubt myself, I re-read and re-read and re-read her poem Wild Geese. I’ve probably read it a gazillion-million times, and I don’t even know if a gazillion-million is a real number.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles, through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I’ll tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself up to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.
You guys. I know this is an article about dogs, but I had to include this poem about wild geese, just because it’s about so much more than geese, you know.
But Mary Oliver has not ignored dogs in her work. Her poem Percy speaks for itself about the importance of dogs to the whole wide world:
Our new dog, named for the beloved poet,
ate a book which unfortunately we had
Fortunately, it was the Bhagavad Gita,
of which many copies are available.
Every day now, as Percy grows
into the beauty of his life, we touch
his wild, curly head and say,
“Oh, wisest of little dogs.I have a little dog who likes to nap with me.
He climbs on my body and puts his face in my neck.
He is sweeter than soap.
He is more wonderful than a diamond necklace,
which can’t even bark.
I would like to take him to Kashmir and the Ukraine,
and Jerusalem and Palestine and Iraq and Darfur,
that the sorrowing thousands might see his laughing mouth.
I would like to take him to Washington, right into
the oval office
where Donald Rumsfeld would crawl out of the president’s
and kneel down on the carpet, and romp like a boy.
3. Eileen Myles
Riese wrote about her here . And then there are articles about her here and here. If you haven’t already noticed, we here at Autostraddle love Eileen Myles. I loved her even more when I found that there’s an entire section of her website devoted to her writings on animals. Here she is writing about caring for her late dog Rosie:
I begin our ritual. Washing her ass ﬁrst. With a small silver bowl and warm water and special dog medicated shampoo so her belly and legs and ass won’t get red and sore. I rinse her next, pat her ass dry, settle her down onto a clean mat. I do this again and again. Dog, water, soap, mat, mop, bucket. Dog craft is as close as I get in my life to devotion. Which is made of love.
Woolf was involved in a love triangle. No, I’m not talking about the one she was in with her lover Vita Sack-ville West, and both of their husbands. Besides, that’s more of a love square if we’re going to be specific. I’m talking about the love triangle between her, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Browning’s dog, Flush. Browning described herself as a “philo-dogist,” and believed Flush was remarkably intelligent and well on his way to literacy. It was claimed that the cocker-spaniel could recognise the letters A and B and had the brain power to eventually master the entire alphabet. He didn’t, but that didn’t stop Woolf from penning “Flush: A Biography” after Browning had already written a poetic eulogy in the dog’s honour, “To Flush: My Dog.”
5. Tinkerbell (and Riese)
But we can’t talk about highly-intelligent queer-tastic canines without honouring Tinkerbell. Unlike Flush, Tinkerbell is actually literate. Tinkerbell’s command of language goes far beyond the letters A and B. She has proven her wit in many an Autostraddle article. Also this genius is, in fact, trisexual. Riese would like you to know that Tinkerbell was born in Miami, is thin and beautiful, clingy and needy, and might be an alcoholic. Being a queer-tastic literary canine genius with a multi-faceted personality can drive one to alcoholism, you see. There are so many dimensions to Tinkerbell it’s hard to do her justice with this brief description. But hopefully, if you guys raise enough money, a tattoo artist will do her justice on Alex’s behind.
I was late summer cleaning my computer today (I have 3.36 gb free, what even!)
and I found this inspirational poem:
Gays and loyal pet friends may you be besties forever-
Running and playing in a park lovely morning romp
Catching a Frisbee, man is that a dog
Clouds are frames for sunny days
Surprised to see that Michelle Tea doesn’t have a puppy :/
So in the picture ‘Brown with dogs’ pretty sure one of those is a cat. Just saying. Not that I’m putting labels on the cat, maybe it identifies as a dog? You do you, cat.
I think it identifies as a dog. But to be sure, I’ll get Tinkerbell to interview the cat/dog and find out for you, okay? I really hope it identifies as a dog though, cause I don’t like cats (please don’t hate me).
Oh wow, I was given the poem Wild Geese a few years ago and i came at just the right time you know? Thank you for reminding me of it.
Also, I’m going to my Ma’s today so I get to see my dog and (20 year old!) cat- I’M SO EXCITED YOU GUYS.
Daaaaang, Vita Sackville-West gets everywhere. I feel kind of left out now because I don’t have a dog, just two cats (one of whom is very lazy, and one of whom is cripplingly shy).
Let’s not forget Gertrude Stein and her standard poodle basket!
Yes! There are so many awesome gay lady writers with dogs…Sadly, I couldn’t include them all in this little article though.
“Girlfriends will love you and leave you, but your four-legged friend’s desire to wake you each morning with an enthusiastic lick will never waver.”
I thought that’s what girlfriends were supposed to do to.
You win the internet today.
my point exactly :-p
Flush = totally underrated
We can’t forget about Michael Field, a Victorian poet who was actually two women (Katherine Bradley & Edith Cooper) who were lovers. Their poem “Trinity” is about Whym Chow, their dog, who was the third part in their holy trinity. Oh, and Bradley and Cooper were aunt and niece. This shit is real life, guys.
Wow. Thanks for telling me about this!
My dog totally kept me sane when I was writing my thesis. I would sit and try and explain where I was coming from and where I wanted to go with each chapter and he would sit there and listen (with varying degrees of attentiveness) because he was rewarded with belly scratches. Also his sleep yipping is adorbz.
MARY OLIVER IS MY FAVORITE IN THE WHOLE WORLD and I have a “Wild Geese” tattoo!
Pingback: Queer Space and Non-human Animals – Space for Thought