I recently had a client ask me a very unusual question.
“Could my dog be gay?”
Now, you might think of this as an off-color aside, not a serious inquiry. But this client was honestly curious. He was not embarrassed and not angry, but wondering if it was possible.
And who am I to say? I mean, I’ve taken years of science classes, including behavior classes, but that dog will never tell me the answer to the question.
And who am I to say what the term “gay” means to that dog? Some people say it refers to culture in humans, but other terms denote sexual preference. So a vocabulary quagmire arises.
But, when you look at scientific research, instances of preference for the same gender are widespread, and not just in humans. Sheep, fish, birds, and yes, even dogs have been noted to seem to prefer members of the same gender for their partnered companionship.
In 2004, the media went wild over a same-sex pair of penguins at the Central Park Zoo.
And when hard science is applied, it appears this tendency does have some level of genetic predisposition. So not just nurture, nature determines preference. These penguins didn’t have some horrible experience as youngsters. They simply paired with who they wanted.
I fully believe dogs are complicated, wonderful beings. But not as complicated as humans. So the nature versus nurture argument is obviously not mine to determine, although I would certainly have my suspicions based on science.
So back to the dog in the question. Could he be gay? If you mean could he prefer to pair with other male dogs, yes. He could. And that’s what I told the young man who asked me. And I told him that I think it really doesn’t matter, as long as the dog is happy. It will never impact anyone else.
And if someone is really, really concerned with his dog’s sexuality, I’m a bit more worried about the person than I am about the dog.
He thanked me with tears in his eyes. I’m still not sure if he was really asking about the dog.
Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.