Believe it or not, I’m often asked to render my “expert” opinion on this subject. I have no idea what makes me an authority on this in the minds of some of my clients but — no matter — I try to take this line of questioning in stride.
Funny enough, my gay clients are the ones most likely to comment or query on the subject and I guess that makes sense; it’s not as if they consider the subject taboo or in any way off limits. Yet I’m still never sure what to say when I’m asked if a pet is gay.
“I don’t know,” (said with a smile and an amused gleam in my eye) is my best reply. I mean, how am I supposed to know? I’m sure it’s possible, but does it really matter? Is it a medical concern? It’s only an issue if said animal chooses not to mount their selected mate, in which case it still doesn’t really matter; I can just collect male semen by hand and artificially inseminate the female. Done. No gay or straight issue there.
The bottom line? I spend so much of my life trying to convince people to spay and neuter their pets that to venture into the realm of sexual orientation seems like an unreasonable and unnecessary leap into a fruitless and potentially harrowing oblivion.
OK, sure, pets engage in all kind of sexually evocative behavior (i.e., humping) with members of the same sex. Then again, they’re also willing to hump their friends’ heads, the household cat, stuffed hedgehogs and their parents’ legs. Does this make them gay, perverse or deviant? No!
(And I would like to quickly point out here that I am NOT equating “gay” to “perverse” or “deviant.” I am simply offering the latter two as separate and distinct alternatives. You see why I am so reluctant to engage in conversation on this subject? It’s fraught with a plethora of misunderstandings and political pitfalls.)
As to the humping, a personal example: My own (female) dog is a casual “play humper.” I think it’s actually quite cute (though she embarrasses others shamelessly). But how many times can I say it? This is not necessarily sexual behavior. Somehow, for her, it’s socially satisfying and at least for my dog, doesn’t appear sexual at all - but who knows what lurks in the canine mind? Maybe it is.
But as I asked before: What does it matter? And who cares anyway? Spay and neuter your dog (or don’t – but only if you have a well-informed reason) and get over the issue of his or her sexuality. You’ll never fathom the mind of a dog anyway.
Unless you plan on breeding your dog, his or her sexual behavior should be entirely irrelevant. And even so, as I explained, it is still a non-issue.
One final, emphatic point: There’s something disrespectfully anthropomorphic about how we humanize our dogs’ sexual and pseudo-sexual behavior. More specifically, it seems altogether wrong to apply our own convoluted and divisive sexual politics to animals, whether we’re talking about house pets or farm animals.
Discuss the subject with your friends and family if you must, but your veterinarian probably has enough on her (or his) hands, what with worrying about your pet's basic health, that she doesn't much have time for this kind of idle chatter - entertaining though it might be.
Dr. Patty Khuly