“Are you the owner of the white dog?”
“Yes,” I say.
The woman is in her early 60s and has a British accent. We’re at Dog Beach at Lover’s Key State Park, the one where you can let your dog run free, and they can play in the waves and goof around and chase each other in the sandy trails that run through the mangrove forest that separates Dog Beach from the road. The Dog Beach, in my opinion, reveals more about the people than it does about the dogs, and I enjoy watching the owners’ behaviors when their dog runs away, starts a fight, humps the other dogs, or takes a giant dump in the water right in front of everybody. Dogs have helicopter parents, too. And there are many people whose dog is merely an extension of their identity (I suppose this is also true for moms and dads, which is why so many of us end up in therapy or as adults who could benefit from therapy), so whatever the dog is doing somehow reflects on the character and human value of the owner.
I have never been like this about dogs. Dogs are companion animals, they are intelligent and emotional, and they bond with us. However, I don’t project myself onto my dog. And he is better off for it.
The dog I have now is named Buckshot Lee Moore, and he is a coonhound, about 85 lbs, and I call him Buckley. He is white with a tan mask, one speckled ear, is prone to “growths” on his body, and other dogs seem to love him even though he doesn’t care much about anything other than treats and me. I’m not sure what it is about Buckley that makes other dogs behave the way they do about him, but based on their behavior, Buckley earned the nickname Sweet Penis about two years ago.
I love dogs, and my first dog, a yellow Lab named Ginger Fireball, engaged me in a codependent relationship (as only Labs can do) so intimate that we could read each other’s minds. If you think I am merely an overly sentimental dog owner by saying so, then I beg you to ask anyone around us at this period of my life, and he or she will undoubtedly confirm the truth of what I speak. Even so, I never looked at Ginger and saw myself. My former husband did, however, see himself in her because he’d bought her to be his duck hunting dog, and if you know anything at all about country boys and their duck dogs, you know that it is a similar relationship to a Marine father and his son. The son is the father; ergo, the dog is the man.
Unfortunately, when Ginger was spayed, the doctor did not remove the entirety of her sex organs, and for the rest of her life, twice a year, she went into “false heat.” During this month, Ginger, a purebred champion, let every big, brown dog–no matter how scraggly, no matter how mixed-breed, no matter how smelly–mount her in the middle of the street. And I swear she smiled about it. The sight of such a transgression against his beloved hunting dog–and what that seemed to indicate about him–was too much to bear for my husband. I have fond memories of him running in our house, red-faced and agog, screaming at me to get Ginger “out of the street” as if she was our whore daughter disgracing our family in public. And then there was the time, overcome with anger, when he chased after this particularly gnarly chow mix–again, huge and brown; she did have a type–yelling about how could he do this to her? I wondered, too, if there wasn’t a latent race issue struggling in his psyche; he wouldn’t discuss it with me when I asked why it bothered him so much. But there she was, an expensive pureblood–the offspring of ribboned field trial parentage–getting it from behind by the biggest, brownest mutts with crossed eyes that sniffed her willingness.
Today, this British woman’s male dog is all over Buckley, and she keeps muttering “I don’t know why he is trying to dominate your dog like that; it’s just not like him,” and I want to explain to her that yes, her dog keeps trying to hump Buckley, but when her dog bows down to get his face between Buckley’s legs for a better licking angle, it’s not domination she’s witnessing. Then her husband walks up, embarrassed but also kind of proud, to point out that he is so sorry is dog keeps “harassing” mine. “I don’t know why they won’t leave him alone. Why they want to dominate him.” He won’t make eye contact.
I know why, buddy. It’s because Sweet Penis has showed up to the dog beach and your precious Luke can’t control himself. It’s the Sweet Penis Effect. But, I’ve been in this situation before, and I’ve seen it over and over, the same scene: most people can not handle the sight of their male dogs licking another male’s junk, and they certainly don’t want me to point out that their barrel-chested guard dog is sucking off my coonhound. It’s okay, I want to tell him, a lot of male dogs do this with Buckley; I see it whenever I take him around other dogs. Just ask my dad and his Airedale terrier, The Outlaw Josey Wales.
From the moment Buckley and I entered my dad’s house, Josey was on top of Buckley, pushing, rubbing, humping, nipping, licking. As Josey’s ardor grew, so did my father’s embarrassment. Josey was like a bad prom date. My dad kept trying to regain his dog’s attention, muttering about dominance. But when Josey Wales crawled under Buckley, rolled on his back, and began doing something with his tongue that can only be described as pornographic, did I point out what, to me, was obvious.
“Dad, your dog is gay.”
I said this just to mess with my dad, who had named his dog after such a legendary Clint Eastwood character, which was extra funny, and it worked. A little too well.
Now, I am sure that there are thousands of dog owners out there who don’t care that their dog acts gay. However, those people’s dogs don’t ever seem to desperately need the Sweet Penis. And I can assure you that after my dad’s reaction, I will never again suggest that some guy’s dog is gay–unless I’m in one of my moods to antagonize people’s fear of homosexuality, and even that has grown tiresome because of the times–and I certainly wasn’t going to mess around and joke with this British couple who was determined to define what they were seeing as “dominance” because folks are just too wound up about what they look like to everybody else. God forbid you have a gay-acting dog. Personally, I don’t care about homosexuality because I believe it’s normal: I’ve seen with my own eyes animals of several species engaging in what humans have defined as “homosexual,” and no one gives a shit except for humans, and, really, not all of them, either.
I’m no activist, but I am partially passive aggressive, so I enjoy the fact that, upon occasion, Sweet Penis shows up to the dog park and makes things a wee bit uncomfortable. I am greatly disturbed by how many people in this day and age, after Enlightenment, when education is so easy to come by, still toe the line that homosexuality is an abomination–I laugh about it, but it also makes me sad that humans get upset at the concept that their dog–their dog–might be gay. Imagine how horrible it must be to be the child of someone like this? Just an observation I had at the Dog Beach today.
night night beloveds. To you and your Sweet Penis, whoever that may be.