Our dog Otis likes to have fun like any other dog. He likes to go on long hikes and runs, and he loves chasing squirrels and chewing on bones. He likes cuddling with my wife and I in the morning before we begin our day. And he especially loves giving our infant daughter—to her squealing delight—big sloppy doggie kisses.
But what Otis really seems to love, despite being neutered, is humping other dogs. Whether male or female, big or small, purebred or mutt, Otis is quick to fall in love, if only for a few minutes at a time.
Most of the time it is pretty harmless. He’ll hump for a few seconds to assert his dominance, or use the hump as a way to goad another dog to wrestle and play. But when a dog has that special something, Otis pays no heed to the Larry Craig-like rituals of the dog world. He just mounts, locks on at the hips and thrusts away, giving renewed meaning to the term doggie style. When he’s done he usually falls to the ground and licks himself for a few minutes, and then curls up and takes a quick nap. Thus his transformation into the Ron Jeremy of the dog park is complete.
To no avail, we’ve tried to stop this behavior. But no matter what kind of advanced training techniques we use, Otis always gets back to his business. He sometimes becomes so possessed with lust that it seems as if the dogs he singles out for action have peanut butter smeared across their rears.
Most dog owners either laugh at or ignore Otis’s canine escapades. Because Otis is usually a good-natured dog who loves to play with other dogs in a non-humping way, most owners realize that this is just part of doggie behavior, no matter how funny it looks or silly it seems. And if a dog owner seems bothered by it—either because their dog has bad hips or because they just can’t bear the idea of their dog being submissive—I’ll take Otis off mid-hump. If he can’t control himself, we’ll leave the dog park and go for a walk, an outcome that leaves him dejected.
I’ve discovered recently, however, that there are some dog owners for whom male dog on male dog love is a biblical offense that sends them into a Sodom and Gomorrah-like rage. These homophobes of the dog world can’t seem to reconcile their ideal of their “best friends” with what they consider to be deviant behavior, even though they own animals that can lick themselves at will and who greet one another by sniffing and licking behinds. When Otis and I run into folks like these I usually try to make a joke, saying something like, “I guess our dogs have taken Philadelphia’s motto as the “City of Brotherly Love” quite literally.”
One recent interaction stands out. How could either Otis or I have known that he was humping the dog of the Phyllis Schlafly of the dog park, raining down the rancor and homophobia of the Eagle Forum upon us both? At first I had no clue as to why she was so angry about her dog “getting it” from Otis. I told her that she needed to ask me nicely to stop Otis. She refused, mumbled some angry things, and then kicked Otis to stop his humping. Who does that? Who kicks a dog? So, I just let Otis have his way with this dog, and explained to the woman as calmly as I could that she was completely nuts. After the incident one of her friends asked me if I knew that the victim of Otis’s advances was also male? I asked mockingly why that mattered? He told me, in all seriousness, that “that just wasn’t right.”
Dog owners are a strange breed indeed. Not only do many support a billion dollar vanity pet industry that offers everything from doggie massages to dog therapy to designer dog apparel. And not only do many dog owners support often unhealthy breeding practices so they can bring home their favorite type of dog—this despite the fact that the Humane Society estimates that between 3-4 million dogs are euthanized in the United States each year while awaiting adoption. But sadly, they sometimes also project their prejudices and hate from the human world onto the animals they claim to love. Maybe Otis’s humping is more than just his brief expression of canine love; maybe he’s fighting dog park homophobia by literally sticking it to the man.