A dog … no, a cat … no, a dog

Most of my lesbian friends have pets. They’re cat people, dog people, guinea pig people, horse people, bird people. Animals are the perfect complement to our lives, whether we live alone or with a partner. Our pets pick us up and calm us down; and best of all, they seem to know exactly when to do which.

We have a cat, Rozzie. Rosalind Russell, actually, named for the star of my all-time favorite film Auntie Mame. You may recall that I picked her out at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter back when we first moved to the desert in 2011. She was a year old then, and shelter staff told us that she’d already raised a litter of kittens. I have since learned that shelter staff often make up stories on the spot because animals with stories are more likely to be adopted.

Rozzie has been a wonderful addition to our household, but let’s face it — pets complicate our lives too. They’re a huge responsibility and commitment. They have to be fed and watered regularly (and then, ahem … de-fed and de-watered); and they need exercise and affection. Okay, so most cats don’t need affection, and some in fact would just rather you didn’t. And some, like Rozzie, require medicine twice a day to stay healthy. Like I said, a huge responsibility.

So why would any sane writer ever willingly put one of these critters in a book of fiction?

It’s hard enough to keep characters straight and move them in a meaningful arc from one chapter to the next — now you’ve got a dog/cat/guinea pig/horse/bird to take care of too! Audie Pippin, one of my lead characters in Sumter Point, enjoys a spontaneous night of lovemaking with Beth, but leaps out of bed before dawn the next day because poor Buster was left home alone overnight and now he needs to pee!

Despite these challenges, I’ve prominently featured several pets in my books. There’s Chester the basset hound from the Shaken Series, Petie the Boston terrier from Mulligan, Dexter the pit bull/Labrador from Life After Love, to name a few. In all, about seven dogs, three cats.

I’m working on a new book now. For several weeks, I’ve been writing about Amy and her dog Reggie, a Cavalier King Charles/Bichon mix (they’re called “Cavachons”) who works as a therapy dog. Four chapters in, I decided that Reggie was entirely too demanding to the story, so I traded him out for Bruce, a Siamese/tabby mix that can be left alone for long periods of time. Great, now Amy can stay out all night with her new love interest if she wants to! But who takes their cat along on a hike, and where can you go without a portable litter box? So let’s change it back to Reggie … no, back to Bruce … no, back to Reggie. On and on it goes, until I realize I’m pouring all this energy into parallel books — one for Reggie, one for Bruce — and the character who’s still lying flat on the page is Amy.

4 Responses to “A dog … no, a cat … no, a dog”

  1. My all-time favorite of yours is Skippy.

  2. that picture is everything! see you at GCLS in July 🙂

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