March 31, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 13
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Wednesday, Jun 19, 2019



Not Thinking Straight by Madelyn Arnold
Pet proof we're Aadvancing...
One reason people thought my grandmother odd was that she had a (sort of) fox terrier she actually allowed in her house. It even slept in the house, and moreover she'd fasten it to a cable so it could run around the yard (somewhat) instead of the following the accepted practice of letting it run wild crapping, pack-hunting and being shot and/or hit by cars. People figured she was soft between the ears. It was their right to shoot at dogs.

As a child I only knew one other person who coddled an animal this way, and he was the retired florist up the street - said to breed poodles, but he had a long dog run so I never saw any baby dogs. Darn it. You can imagine what people thought about him. But nobody ever thought my grandmother was Gay.


I grew older and Gayer and found it no surprise that we Gay folk take our animals to heart, a fact not unnoticed by others: "Gay people have a very emotional connection with their pets, stronger than the general population," explains pet food marketer Jeff Watters. Our homes are "... not unlike empty nester households, where the cat or dog becomes the furry 'kid'.... Cats and dogs do not cast judgment on owners or lifestyle."

Well I don't know about that, but then I've had some very discriminating pets.

My ex and I had a little black dog and a old black bean bag chair, and when the former sat on the latter with its tan belly hidden, all it had to do to be invisible was shut its eyes. The dog was crazy about that chair. But when we had to move, the chair was among the things we sold... immediately after, in the exact place where the chair had stood, the dog had a solid "accident" - which had never happened before. But we had a chance to get used to it, because this continued for days - plus the dog would stand around us, butt presented. We got the message. Ultimately we solved our problem by moving.


It's spring here on the Hill, great ice cream cones of flowering crab and ordinary apple are everywhere, even though the season isn't full; everywhere are queens and Dykes (and the discreet) and all the rest of The Community - and straights, of course, and the undecided - out looking at the day and at each other. A surprising number of us are walking dogs.

Volunteer Park used to have an "off-lead" area for dogs. Bigger cruise than the Queen Mary. When I was alone and lonesome, I used to take my bright little dog Alice there to be chased and wrestled and rolled-over and over and mauled, the way I hoped to be: for it was absolutely marvelous how many Queer ladies were there alone, with a dog, like me.

(There were couples and groups of course, and lots of Gay men, but alonehood grants selective vision...) While I didn't meet any partners, I did find dates; but it is disagreeable to know how many couples practice a "non-monogamy" where one of the two doesn't know it.


Something like one out of five households in the US has a pet animal, usually a dog or cat (or horse), and many owners consider them almost family. Childless couples are perhaps most likely to treat animal friends like relatives. For obvious reasons, we in The Life are frequently childless, and perhaps this accounts for the relatively high percentage of us who have pets - this in a city which still treats renters as vassals and their pets as vermin.

I wish there were a way to obtain statistics (but for that there would have to be no anti-Queer prejudice) on what percentage of what profession is Queer; but I'd bet that, while only 10% of the population is Gay, nearly half all dog and cat breeders are Gay, or swing like gates. My pets and I have visited many a vet, and in their offices met many breeders... and, uh, I've noticed a certain ubermenschich tendency - but that's another story. I understand the need for husbandry, but let's face it - breeding for useless noses or frizzed-up hair is unnatural selection.

Yet I do confess to a certain fascination with dog trainers (and horse trainers) with their short, barked, importunate orders. And dog collars. And equipment. And. Um.

Yes we in The Community certainly keep pets; anyone with pet food stock is on the way to wealth. Proof that we no longer solely concern ourselves with self-destruction is the fact that not only booze and cigarettes are targeted at us - so are pet products.


Michael Wilke writes in his online column "Commercial Closet" [The Gully, August '03] that Del Monte Pet Products was zeroing in "on Gay pet owners.

"The company brought its Pounce and Pup-peroni brands to Gay events in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, handing out product samples and pet photo frames to people who took a survey, and offering water to thirsty canines. Empty product packages were collected, each garnering a one dollar donation for local pet support organizations.

"Advertisements featuring a French bulldog resting in the grass next to his owner, along with the headline,

'Your Pride, His Joy' appeared in Gay magazines and A lavender background carried paw prints and illustrations of the dog and cat logos from the brands."

Outreach continued through the year: "two brands... represented at an annual women's event, this year honoring Whoopi Goldberg, at the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center...."

... Del Monte "undertook an in-depth look at our category and noted that the Gay community was frankly being underserved and neglected." Only imagine - us neglected.

"[There had been:] ... no competition. Back in October 1998, ads for another Del Monte brand, Nature's Recipe, appeared briefly in OUT magazine, but did not continue. No others filled in the gap.... [although] In Australia, a few ads for Science Diet from Hill's Pet Nutrition appeared [in 2002] in Blue magazine.

".... Historically, once a major brand in any category enters the Gay market, its competitors follow. Del Monte itself may commit further with its other big pet brands: Gravy Train, Cycle, 9 Lives, Meaty Bone, Kibbles 'n Bits, and Snausages."


It looks as if our "furry kids" are in luck.

Things sure have changed, haven't they? In America, if advertising targets your group, you've arrived.t

Madelyn Arnold, an early 'Gay Liberation' activist, is a novelist and journalist who has contributed to the SGN since 1975. A Midwest transplant, she prefers the Pacific North West when it's dark & dank - but even she likes Spring.

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