Okay, it’s probably time for me to just give up on the whole “but really, I’m a Cat Person” and admit two huskies have changed my mind and I am approaching the middle position in the Dog-Cat spectrum of personhood, and roll with it. “Collie Jolly,” by Leigh Landry is an excellent example of this change in action, as the plot sparks and often centres around a Collie in New Orleans, Bacchus (perfect name, no?) and a particular holiday season that brings together two women who are in very different places in their lives this year. Ashley is recently unemployed and scrambling for any job, and Madison is facing a holiday alone after losing the one she thought might be the love of her life to an accident.
Ashley is very much an optimistic, energetic, upbeat sort, so when she realizes her job prospects are slight, she widens her search for anything, and lands on dog-walker and dog-trainer, despite having no experience whatsoever in either role. That said, I appreciated that she did her research and picked up some training guides and even looked into the breed of the dog in question—the aforementioned Collie—before she got started. Madison, on the other hand, has her heart pretty walled off, and this includes to Bacchus to some degree: as he was her girlfriend’s dog, and part of why he’s so untrained and wild is because she can’t bring herself to really interact with him, thanks to the painful memories. She’s closed herself off from many of her friends, too, though as the story progresses you see the cracks form and the walls coming down—in no small part due to Ashley (and Bacchus).
What follows is a gentle story that is founded on a lot of pain. There’s a New Orleans version of forced proximity (a small amount of ice forms, which shuts the city down), a party or two, a reveal that puts a timer on what might happen between the two women, one steps over the line… It’s a holiday story with the usual beats, is what I’m saying, and yet it holds a nice shine of the holiday thanks to Bacchus and the way Landry writes the two women. Also? The support networks of both were really appreciated by me as a reader, especially in seeing bi women, queer men, and a “chosen family” aspect in play, more-so when we casually learn that Madison’s former girlfriend didn’t have a close relationship with her biological family, who reacted poorly to her coming out. It’s a small thing, but I always appreciate these glimpses of queer fictional lives that are so much closer to my own lived experiences. And, of course, given it’s a romance, things absolutely work out for the best for all involved. (Especially Bacchus.)