I have this pet peeve. It’s to do with whether my gaudy bandana-and-hot-purple-parka-wearing dogs look "gay" or not.
OK, they’re boys, so I’ll admit: loud colors may not scream "man-dog." Still, you’ve got to wonder whether my own neutered male dogs — or any dog, for that matter — care a whit whether they’re decked out in masculinity’s mostest ... or Barbie’s hottest-pinkest.
You know, it really shouldn’t bother me what others say ... except that it does. When Gaston wears his screaming Christmas plaid, or Vincent his iridescent purple, people always seem to comment:
"Wow! Doesn’t he look the peacock!"
"Liberace has nothing on him!"
"Interesting color for a boy. Are you sure he knows what he’s wearing?"
Or, too often, less thoughtfully, and unfortunately more commonly:
"That’s a totally gay outfit he’s got on!"
Yes, the holiday season and its inevitable onslaught of random humanity means my dogs (and their outfits) are subject to more scrutiny than I would’ve expected. And so it is that their sartorially-manifested high holiday spirits are less than celebrated due to their "gay-ness."
Such inevitable outbursts invariably get me to thinking: Why the heck do people have to project their own sexual politics onto our blameless dogs? And why should our dogs suffer the slings and arrows of our misplaced anthropomorphism?
These reflections reminded me of a post I penned almost a year ago on the subject of pets and their sexual identity. After this past weekend’s totally annoying talk on the subject of my dogs’ fashion sense, I just had to reprise its emphatic message:
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 with members of the same sex (i.e., humping). 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. (So perhaps now 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.)
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 not to) 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 psychology should be entirely irrelevant. And even so, as I explained, it’s 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.
Which brings me to what really bothers me when people say my dogs look "gay" in their lively new Dublin Dog Christmas collars. Any imagined injury to my own dogs’ egoes be damned. What bugs me is that even as don’t-ask-don’t-tell is in its final demise, you’d think people would be less wont to use terms of homosexuality as insults.
Dr. Patty Khuly
Pic of the day: "Rainbow Vincent" by Me