Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Furry Friends

 Furry Friends…No, the Other Kind

Did everyone get a little thrill from the double entendre (triple if you’ve heard about the animal costume fetish)? Sadly, I won’t be talking about bush confidence, thank you L-Word for taking that phrase mainstream, in this column. Not because bush confidence isn’t important and not because it can’t influence relationships, but because I already made a furry joke and now I should follow through with the animal advice. I'll just have to talk vagina-scaping later. This article is all about pets, and you’ll just have to look for a vagina-scaping article at some later point. A recent letter I received from a lovely woman having trouble finding a girlfriend because of her extreme asthma reaction to animal dander, wanted to know what she could do, and it got me thinking since that is really a pretty big problem if someone wants to date in the lesbian community. After answering the questionto the best of my ability I decided I needed to write a more comprehensive, “for everyone” pet guide to dating.

If you're not into reading the whole blog, just buy a lizard and skip to the end.
Most lesbians tend to be pet owners. There are probably statistics somewhere to back this up, and I’m sure you can find them on your own, but can we all anecdotally admit that when you get two women together in a couple, you’re more likely to end up with fuzzy critters in the relationship too (again with the double entendres, what is my deal?). The problem is:  most is not all. And even if it were, not all pets are equally liked by all women and not all concentrations of pets are equally appreciated. This is important stuff to figure out since well-loved pets will last you between 10-20 years, which is probably longer than the vast majority of your girlfriends lasted. For example, I’ve had my cat, Josephine, for nine years, and I’ve been with my girlfriend, Nikki, for almost four now. Thankfully, the two get along reasonably well, although that wasn’t always the case.

Again, if you're going with a bird (and probably a deaf girlfriend), go ahead and skip to the end.

When my girlfriend and I first moved in together, she had a cat already too, a giant Maine Coon named Dragon (yes, like in The Secret of Nihm—see why I love this woman?). Dragon is a giant love sponge who immediately adored me and my Siamese kitty. Josephine, however, did not care for Dragon or Nikki being in her house. She chased Dragon, which was a little surprising and kind of comical considering Josie weighs maybe 9 pounds and doesn’t have her front claws anymore, and Dragon weighs 15ish pounds and has claws like a small bear. Josephine also started biting Nikki, which is a big time no-no since cat bites have a nasty habit of becoming extremely infected. Dragon freaked out about being chased all the time and began marking and vomiting, which started pissing me off since they moved into my place, which to that point Josephine and I had kept immaculately free of pet accidents. Now this whole conflict within a relationship arose between two cat people with reasonable kitty expectations. Imagine if you’re a dog person with four Rottweilers trying to date a cat person who just adopted an all too edible Persian kitten?

Or two giant, long hair dogs and a whole flock of chickens.

Step 1 – disclosure:  your first date must include a conversation about what critters share your life. Ideally, this might take place even sooner. Pets can be deal breakers for some people, like the woman mentioned earlier who has extreme medical reactions to animals. Talk about type, talk about breed, talk about temperament, talk about the length you’ve had your pet friend and make sure you ask questions for all their corresponding information. Trust me, getting a lesbian to talk about her cats or dogs is really easy and also a fantastic way to build rapport with them, so it should be something you’re doing anyway to be charming. If you start seeing conflicts, like one person has seven bounding chocolate labs and the other person is deathly afraid of being licked to death by a pack of hounds, you might have identified a future problem.

Step 2 – be open minded:  as I’ve said a million times, we’re a minority within a minority within a minority…we can’t just throw away potential girlfriends with the expectations that perfection is plentiful out there. You might have to make some compromises on a few things, and pets are probably one of them. Listen, I get that people don’t always like cats or dogs, I really do, big dogs scare the holy hell out of me. I’m a petite lady, so many breeds actually weigh more than me. I’ve got a friend with a Rhodesian Ridgeback / White Lab mix that weighs half again as much as I do (150ish lbs), and routinely knocks me over purely by accident (one sudden turn and I’m knocked flat by a dog butt because he saw a squirrel to his right). But when I was single, I couldn’t rule out women who owned large dogs simply for owning large dogs. I dated a girl with a perfectly lovely German Shepherd and I loved that dog—far more than I liked her as it turns out, but the point remains, I had to get past my thing about big dogs and take each animal on a case by case basis. If you’re not a cat person, give that girl’s individual cat a chance; they might surprise you.

Step 3 – don’t be insane:  this is really just good advice for pet owners in general. If you have three poorly trained, poorly behaved, and messy dogs living with you in a studio apartment, you’re going to have a hard time attracting women willing to brave the oversized kennel to sleep over—she isn’t the strange one for saying no in this scenario. Any time you need more than one hand to list your cats, you’re probably going to start scaring off women. Volume of pets isn’t the only way to be crazy though—yes, that’s right ladies, we need to recognize our intensity issues with our pets. You can love your pets, it’s what they’re there for, but if all your pictures are of your pets and every conversation starts with, “Hey, guess what my dog did this morning!” you need to take a step back and realize you’re probably:  A. boring people to tears and B. scaring the crap out of them. Chill with this stuff, ladies; it’s like kids—they’re only that cute to you because they’re yours so your pet talk shouldn’t dominate the conversation on a date unless you’re planning on dating your pet (and please don’t do that).


Step 4 – be a good pet owner:  sadly so many people don’t have the faintest clue they’re bad pet owners. They have that whole Dog Whisperer show with an endless supply of bad dog owners who need Caesar Milan to tell them how to own a dog because this is a rampant problem. Cat owners are no better since cats are even harder to train and most of them are supposed to go to the bathroom inside. If you’re dating someone, you really need to take a far more critical eye at what your pet is doing and what state your pet has left your place in. You need to understand that we get used to things with our pets. I don’t even know how much tan fur I have eaten or breathed in over the years, but it’s probably enough to create a whole other cat. Josephine sheds year-round, it’s all super fine and short so the ceiling fans aerosolize it like weapon’s grade anthrax and suddenly surfaces she’s never even been on have cat fur on them. But I’m aware of this, and I’m also so used to plucking cat fur off my clothes, car keys, coffee mug, computer, showerhead, etc. that I don’t even think of it as irritating anymore. The problem is, if you bring a girl back to your place, who has no relationship with your pet yet and hasn’t lived in the vicinity of your specific animal’s fur, she will notice it, so clean with an eye to that, and for goodness sake, make sure your animal has the basics of polite behavior down before you introduce it to people. AND clean up after your dogs when you take them for a walk—that’s gross to just leave it in the park or on someone’s front lawn…that’s not dating advice, it’s just worthwhile person advice, although I wouldn’t date someone who didn’t scoop.

It seems like if he knew how to operate a scooper, he should know how to use a toilet.

It took a long time for me to train Josephine to not bite my girlfriend, it took an equally long time for our cats to start getting along well enough that Dragon isn’t marking, but we stuck with it. Of course, it involved me climbing a lemon tree to get Dragon when she got her collar caught on a branch and I ended up cut to ribbons since it turns out certain lemon trees have thorns; it also involved Nikki practically climbing up into chimney at my parent's house to get Josephine out when she decided to chase after a bird that flew down the top, which I couldn’t have done because I’m crazy claustrophobic. Bringing together your pets and the women you’re dating can be a complex and difficult process, but you can smooth the process by disclosing, being open minded, avoiding the craziness, and being a responsible pet owner.

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