Dogs and the Man


By Editors

She was the icing on the cake of the relationship between David and me. With her here, it was obvious that what we had was something definitely along the lines of a marriage. It felt very official. That echoes what I was looking for as a kid. We've had Shiny for almost as long as we've been together, almost ten years. So we sort of measure our relationship by how old Shiny is.

In my film, there's a real transition when David and I got this apartment and made a family for ourselves. We lived in this wonderful railroad apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Shiny adjusted immediately. The only problem was that she chewed the hell out of everything. We had so much wonderful furniture, and she just destroyed it all. After a while, I was angry and frustrated but had succumbed to a kind of complacency about it. I collected books and CDs, and she destroyed tons of them. I had to let go and let the universe be what it was. She's trained at this point, to a certain extent. She's out of her chewing stage.

In my early twenties, I was working in a hair salon in SoHo as a receptionist and occasional shampoo boy during the day. Shiney was still a puppy. I walked her around. I think it's cool to see the way people will interact with you if you're walking a dog. I don't think you should get a dog exclusively for this reason, but it's a really cool thing, the way dogs connect people. People say hello to the dog, and want to stop and pet the dog, and they just start talking to you. I enjoyed that.

One day I had to take Shiny to the Humane Society clinic. I hadn't been in New York very long, let alone with a dog, so I didn't know all the rules. At 14th Street, I had to transfer from the N to the R train, so I was standing on the platform when this big walrus of a policeman walked up to me and said, 'What's wrong with you? Why do you have this dog here? Is it a Seeing Eye dog?'

I said, 'No, I'm just taking her to get her shots.'

He said, 'Come with me.'

We followed him down the platform to an office. I thought maybe he wanted to show her to somebody. He went in the office and came out and handed me this ticket. It was expensive! Three hundred dollars!

I said, 'I had no idea it was illegal to take a dog on the subway.'

Isn't that terrible? It's ridiculous. We had a muzzle on her and were very careful with her. You would think in a city like New York it wouldn't be a big deal to take your dog on the subway. I was in Mexico City last week, sitting in a cafe where they were serving food, and three stray dogs walked in. They have a lot of homeless dogs there. I don't know if this is a cultural thing, or a Latino thing, but left and right, people were embracing the dogs, petting them, without any fear. I thought, This would never happen in New York.
Just after I got the ticket, I took Shiny on the subway to get home. Just before we got off at our stop in Brooklyn, Shiny peed in the subway car. She'd never, ever done anything like that before. The subway doors opened, and just before we walked off, she peed like mad. It was her way of saying, 'Fuck you!' to the system.

Then Shiny had thirteen babies. We had moved to our third apartment at that point, so Shiny was about three years old. We mated her with a pit bull. David ended up walking around the neighborhood and passing the puppies out from a basket. It got to that level because we couldn't give them away and we didn't get any buyers from an ad. When they hear the words 'pit bull,' people tend to run and hide. We kept one of her puppies, and named him Miel, Spanish for 'honey.' Unfortunately about two and a half years ago, David was walking here in Astoria with Miel very late at night down a one-way street toward a park. A car with a drunk driver zipped around the corner and came down the street, the wrong way, at lightspeed. Miel wanted to protect David. Just as the car came roaring down on them, Miel jumped out in front of the car. The car killed Miel. We came to the conclusion that Miel saved David's life. That was a really sad time for us.

When something like that happens, it changes your whole perception of how amazing these animals are. I don't understand people who won't let dogs on their couch and on their beds. It almost feels like, 'Why do you have a dog?' Our dogs are absolutely members of the family. We have a car, and we take them everywhere.

Something has paid off recently from what happened in my childhood. I just recently converged my entire family under one roof. So I'm at the point where I'm taking care of everyone. My mother and my grandfather. We all live in Astoria now, and we have two dogs and three cats. Kind of a full house.

Besides Shiny, our other dog is Lucy. David and I found her by the side of the road in Pasadena, Texas. A guy was selling her for sixty dollars. She's a beautiful terrier mutt. Terriers are kind of a unique subdivision within dogs, and if they're not disciplined, they can be nuts. Lucy sort of looks like Sport/Christy. She reminds me of her, and how close I was to her. And then, the other day, my grandfather out of nowhere told me that the dog was trying to tell him something. He has never said anything like that in his life before. He thought Lucy had something to tell him, but he didn't know what it was. So he's basically saying the same thing that I said about my terrier when I was four. I thought that was really interesting.

But I can't take him back in time and get him to change the way things were. All I can do is try to make things work now, with my family and my dogs.

From Paws and Reflect: Exploring the Bond Between Gay Men and Their Dogs. ' 2006, Sharon Sakson and Neil Plakcy. Reprinted courtesy of Alyson Books.