Domestication of Bitches

Cruelty to Girlfriends

Four months after moving in with my boyfriend, I never expected to be left alone, tending to his pregnant dog. He bought Cadence, a golden Labrador Retriever, on a breeding contract, meaning any heat, the breeders may summon her to Gilead to partake in the Ceremony.

“This is her stud, Chewbacca. They’ll make sexy babies: yellow and black,” says the breeder, a red-haired woman wearing muddied rain boats, “Oh, and were you warned? She’s smelling ripe, so watch out for dogs who may try to play second fiddle!”

I feel uncomfortable by the biological instruction, wrapped in mildly pornographic euphemisms. Little do I know that in a few weeks time, I’ll be discussing Cadence’s fertility with complete strangers at the dog park, as I frantically tug her away from all those Charlie Bowman’s (who Google says is a famous fiddler).

I take Cadence for her morning walk in Dover, a neighbourhood in Calgary— I guess my neighbourhood in Calgary, seeing I now live here in my boyfriend’s house, unoccupied, but for the pets and me.

There’s not much around, other than rows of bungalows built in the 1970’s and a strip of grass, separated from a busy highway by a wired fence, which the locals have taken over as an unofficial leash-free zone. I see a mutt running around up ahead, his owner “walking” him from the leisure of his idling S.U.V. On my way home, there’s a sign advertising “OK Haircuts”, and I wonder if OK is an acronym or indicative of the quality of cut.

Cadence’s abdomen is thickening, slightly swinging as she trots down the alley. I wonder if she’s comfortable. My mind spirals down a rabbit’s hole. Is it ethical to breed pets? Is it moral to separate pups from a mom, after she gestated for eight weeks and whelped for another seven? To cage dogs and cats in houses all day, while their ancestors roamed free, happily eating garbage from burgeoning villages?

And, what about the ethics of caging your girlfriend in an outskirt neighbourhood where you can’t even get an almond milk latte? I don’t drive and it’s an hour-long public transit commute from Dover to the city centre.

It’s cruelty to girlfriends.

I’ve purposefully chosen to live in or near downtown, since I flew off from my hometown nest. I didn’t break that streak for 12 years across five cities. When I went away to Ottawa U, I lived in “90 University”, a residence building so devoid of personality it’s named after its address. I endured a dilapidated basement suite in Osborne Village, Winnipeg, where the bathroom door never quite closed. I got used to rising and shining to the sound of clinking bottles as the homeless rummaged in the recycling bin below my apartment in the West End, Vancouver. And, in Kelowna, though my view was of a Triple O’s Chevron, at least it was a mere jaunt to a juicery. I even lived downtown in Calgary, that is, before I shacked up.

My past living abodes were less than luxurious, but at least when I got lonely, I could walk to a pub to read over a pint. I could leaf through paper pages of novels at a local bookstore. (I’ve succumbed to an e-reader since moving to the outskirts of Calgary.) I wouldn’t choose to be here in Dover, if it weren’t for my boyfriend, who in a turn of unexpected events, is no longer around.

One week, we were clad in rain gear, trekking through the rainforest on Cortes Island, exploring a property listed for sale. We were going to build a home together: maybe a luxury treehouse supported by the Douglas Firs and Sitka Cedars. Maybe start a family.

The next week, instead of putting an offer on our soon-to-be homestead, he bought a yacht and a ticket to West Palm Beach, Florida. He’d be gone for about two months. Bye. That was the moment our love bubble popped, revealing itself to be a pus-filled pimple.

While he’s gone, the house gets messy. My drawers puke out clothes. I use, on average, seven different water glasses and two coffee mugs per day. Socks find themselves on office desks, and post-its find themselves in the bed.

The pets are more domesticated than me. It’s been years since my Persian cat, Onion, peed on my laundry in protest of being left alone too long. I can even leave undergarments on the floor without having to worry anymore about Cadence ripping them to shreds when no one’s paying attention.

It was my boyfriend who showed me how to properly load his dishwasher. (I didn’t know someone could be so particular about how to load bowls.) And, he’s the only one who ever folds my tank tops. (I just crumple them up and throw them in my drawer.) He laughs at my inability to finish the last five percent of any chore.

He’s the domesticated one. Yet, he’s the one who’s gone rogue. Gone off to sea. Free like Willie.

There’s some chores I don’t neglect, while he’s gone. I take Cadence for a walk twice a day— I lose her Chuck It ball over the fence, to the highway below. It takes three days before Cadence rescues a long-abandoned ball from the depths of a gopher’s hole. It’s covered in mud, and maybe dog feces, but Cadence loves it. She cherishes it like it’s something she’ll never let go.

Photo Credit: Charles by Judith Anenberg is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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