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Paper Trail: A
Love Like No Other

Paper Trail: A
Love Like No Other


In a soulful excerpt from Neil Plakcy and Sharon Sakson's new book Paws and Reflect, writer Victor J. Banis remembers the time he shared with his beloved "girls."

Their names were Jenny and Prima, but everyone called them "the girls." They were lovers, of a sort; lesbians perhaps, though I can't really say if their affectionate cuddling, nestling, licking, and mounting ever produced any kind of orgasm. I can't even say it was sexual in nature. I do know that Prima would lie for hours in rapture, eyes closed, a dreamy smile on her face, while Jenny patiently cleaned her ears; and sometimes at night I would hear noises--long, languorous sighs, or a happy panting that sounded suspiciously like girlish laughter--from the floor beside my bed, but I never peeked.

Prima, painfully shy, was clearly the femme, a pretty, mostly Shepherd mix with no pedigree but gracious manners. Jenny, a registered Springer who seemed aware of her superiority to the unregistered rest of us, was the aggressive member of our menage, an in-your-face sort, although she could be sweet and even demure when she chose.

Jenny was with me first. When I went to the breeder's home to pick a puppy from the litter, her brothers and sisters were busy across the pen, but Jenny dashed over to greet me and to announce that I had been chosen for her future partner. I took her home that evening, and by the next morning she had housebroken herself.

She was a year old when a boyfriend--mine, not hers--arrived one day carrying in his arms a peculiar-looking little animal that purported to be a German Shepherd with the ears of a jackrabbit.

Her name, he informed me, was Prima, and she had been terribly abused in her previous home. I pointed out that I had neither the desire nor the room for a second pet, and reminded him that my landlord had not been happy about the first one, but he asked plaintively if I would just keep her for a day or so while he found a home for her. I made the mistake of saying yes.

The girls shared my life for fifteen happy and loving years. About halfway through that span, we moved to a cabin in the mountains. They loved it: the great outdoors, exploring together, creeks to splash in, all sorts of scents to investigate. In the summer we took long treks in the woods; in the winter, they liked me to throw snowballs for them to catch.

Prima discovered that the field mice were afraid of her, and it bolstered her self-esteem that someone thought her ferocious. Not so very ferocious, however. She came home one day with what appeared to be an odd case of the mumps, her cheeks swollen grotesquely. She came directly to me and began to disgorge from her mouth one, two, three, six in all, baby bunnies, obviously newborn, quite unharmed. She had brought them home for me to raise, apparently--no doubt having innocently terrified their desolate mother into abandoning them. Jenny regarded these blind, helpless intruders with scorn, but Prima stayed close and watched with hopeful eyes as I did my best to save her orphans. It was to no avail, however. She seemed to grieve when I buried them in a box in the backyard, and Jenny sat dutifully, if unmoved.

The years passed, and we all got older. Jenny went mostly blind, and did not hear well, and had a bad back from all her youthful jumping.

Astonishingly, it was Prima, who had always seemed the picture of health, whom I lost first. She got a fever, sudden and severe. I rushed her to the hospital, and the doctor put her on an intravenous solution to combat the dehydration, and I left her with him. He called me the next morning to say we had lost her.

Her death was painful to me, but watching Jenny over the next few weeks was nearly unbearable. I said before that their relationship was lesbian in nature, but I have no doubt some would argue that it was really more a matter of "sisters." That may well be, but of one thing there can be no argument: it was love, as profound as any celebrated by bard or songsmith.

Jenny spent her first day alone searching the house for her beloved friend; concluding finally that Prima was truly gone, she stopped eating. Jenny, who had sometimes seemed to live to eat, never ate again.

Without the girls, I no longer cared for the cabin in the woods. I moved back to the city. Some weeks later I ran into an old friend, who asked after the girls.

"They're gone," I told him, "Prima died of a sudden fever. And Jenny died of a broken heart."

That was years ago, but I still wake sometimes in the night, and think I hear a happy panting on the floor by my bed, and I will reach to pet them, and find no one there. Then I lie in the darkness, remembering; after a time, I dry my eyes, and go back to sleep, and dream of the girls.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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