My Dog (and His Two Dads)
Searching for comfort in the likeliest of places
Have you ever had a pet? They’re wonderful companions, even the most peculiar ones. They can be loving, though sometimes just their presence is enough to add something magical to our existence.
Long ago, my husband and I decided to get a dog. He grew up with dogs and had a special place for them in his heart. I remember stories he told about his young teenage angst, tearfully holding his dog tightly, grateful for a reliable friend during moments of terrible hopeless sadness. Do you remember those days? I do.
My family didn’t have dogs growing up so it meant nothing to me but I was cool with it, so we started looking.
Years earlier, before I was married, I was hitchhiking with a friend in France when this guy picked us up in his jeep and super-generously invited us to stay at his chalet in the French alps for a few days. I think his name was Marc.
This sounds like the beginning of a romance/porn/horror/slasher movie, but it was all rated G. I’m kind of in shock about how generous he was, taking us around to the vistas, meeting his friends, entertaining us. I feel like I never thanked him warmly enough, so I hope he’s reading this! In the back of his jeep he had the friendliest, most gentle dog, a boxer named Vadim, like Petey from “The Little Rascals.” This was during the century before seat belts; my friend curled up with her head on the dog’s belly and passed out, and Vadim lay that way for hours.
On the way to his place, we stopped in Dijon, which Marc proclaimed “the dégustation capital of France.” He ordered steak tartar for lunch. I’d never heard of it. The waiter brought raw meat to the table, seasoned it, and then divided it into two plates, one for our host and one for the dog. It all seemed very civilized, and very special. I think it was the first time I really got to know a dog.
When Dave and I were deciding on the kind of dog we wanted, I remembered Vadim, but we wanted something small. Dave wanted a pug. Blech! I dated a guy once with a cute Italian greyhound. Dave wasn’t into that; too nervous. We were at a crossroads. One afternoon we went to a dog fair; one couple had the cutest thing with them, something we’d never seen before: a Boston terrier. It looked like a miniature boxer. We fell in love and started the search.
Adopting a dog seemed kind and way cheaper, which we loved. Have you ever tried to adopt a dog? Having been a foster parent, I can tell you it’s almost easier to adopt a kid. A bunch of agencies rejected us. Finally, a local rescue group responded and told us they had the perfect dog for us. Someone came to our home to check us out. She was nice and seemed satisfied and started to tell us how wonderful “princess” was and concluded with “but she can never be around children.”
I gave my husband a look and said, “you figure we’re gay, so a dog that can never be around kids is perfect for us?” We told her “no way”, and then she said their only other dog had one eye. Insert shrugging emoji. Or maybe exploding brain. I genuinely didn’t understand her reasoning here, but ultimately that wonderful little one eyed creature became, as they say in the adoption world, our forever dog. His name was Uno.
My husband and I are different types of people. Dave quickly developed a playful loving relationship with the dog. I loved him too, but in a less gushy way.
One night Dave and I had an argument about caring for the dog.
“Uno’s lonely and needs more attention!” he said.
“Uno wants to be by himself sometimes and enjoys his alone time!” I responded.
We both burst out laughing, our projections on full display, and realized it was probably time for an appointment with our couples therapist.
Uno had one “good” eye, but it was also pretty damaged. That said, he got around very well. One night I was with him in a wooded area and got lost. Uno pulled and pulled on the leash, so I gave in and let him lead me. He got us home. Generally he was smart, followed directions and intuitively knew what to do to help out in complicated situations. He was also a major escape artist which always impressed me until one terrible night shortly after we moved to our new suburban home. We went out for dinner and came back to an empty house. Uno had jumped out of a second story window. We were completely beside ourselves, imagining a small black dog walking around at night in a dark unfamiliar place, easily getting hit by a car. We called some friends who lived nearby, not really sure why, maybe to ask for advice, maybe just for support. They seemed surprised we called and said something like, “wow that sucks. Good luck!”
When you don’t have a pet, it’s so hard to understand the impact of such a thing. We stayed up all night wandering the neighborhood, calling his name, worrying, grateful to miraculously find him the next morning.
One day he had a seizure, which was the beginning of the end. We couldn’t let him go, and went to extremes to try and save him. We didn’t, and it didn’t end well for any of us.
Thinking about Uno makes me feel very cuddly, recalling a sweet period with his miniature cuteness.
My dog is on the other side now, and so is my husband. I remember when Dave said that a few days before his death. “I’ll see you on the other side.” They’re frolicking together now in a universe without Covfefe. Recently my son wanted a dog, but the thought of taking care of a dog and a kid doesn’t work for me. Instead, we inherited some lizards. They’re actually pretty cute, though we can’t really tell if they’re healthy or dying.
Life isn’t a breeze these days. A lot of the time, the world is pretty scary for us queers on top of all the anticipatory stress of global climate change, nuclear war, democratic collapse and economic instability. I feel that hopeless sadness returning some evenings. Honestly though, I don’t think I’d get a lot of comfort out of my beloved Uno. I always related to him as a very lovable responsibility. On the other hand, my husband was a gentle spirit, a dreamer, tender and sweet and playful. All the horrible things that are being said about and done to queers these days, they would have made him very angry and sometimes, very sad and hopeless. He would have felt a lot of comfort from Uno’s love.
What would my youth have been like if I’d had a dog? I remember plenty of sad moments of my own. Loneliness, confusion, longing. Would the simple love of a dog have changed any of that for me? Or would it have just been a nice thing? Or would it have felt like a lovable responsibility?
Maybe for me, the lizards are just right.
This story is a response to the Prism & Pen writing prompt, Queer Family Pets: Comfort During Calamity?
Prompt stories so far —
How My Pets React To My Being Transgender
Animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.