A common refrain heard from antis is that zoosexuals are taking the easy way out by loving an animal rather than a human. And I’ll admit, it’s a view I held when I was young and dumb. My parents were primarily responsible for the dogs who shared our home before, and from the outside, they made caring for a dog seem easy. That, combined with the insecurity I’d always experienced in human relationships, convinced me that a relationship with a dog would be easier. But with the recent passing of my canine partner of fourteen and a half years, I’ve come to see how simplistic that view was. I learned loving a dog wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. So here are a few of the lessons I learned along the way. The following may apply to other species as well, but my experience is with dogs, so I’ll focus on them here.
Unless you know someone who has a dog they need to find a new home for, the way you find a canine partner is usually by going to a breeder or shelter. In those situations, you’re usually forced to make a decision from limited information, and don’t usually get the chance to know your potential partner over weeks and months like you might dating another human. In the case of buying from a breeder, unless they live locally you may not even get the chance to meet your potential partner, or their parents, until it’s time to exchange money for them. From a shelter, you may have a traumatic history to contend with, assuming their history is known in the first place. I don’t know about you, but without the opportunity to get to know and build trust with a potential partner for a decent amount of time before adopting them, I feel uneasy adopting from a shelter. So starting with a clean slate by buying from a registered breeder seems like a more appealing option to me. No matter how you choose to bring a dog into your life, it’s important to understand that you’ll be bringing a living being into your home. Things might not be perfect at first, and it might take some time to get used to, so be prepared to make some adjustments as you learn to live together.
Another thing to consider when it comes to adopting from a breeder is that unlike most people you date, puppies haven’t had as much time in the world to learn yet. If, like me, you end up buying from a breeder, you’ll need to teach your potential partner, so you can live together in harmony. It’s well known that puppies can and will chew on everything they can fit into their mouths, including your fingers, and those puppy teeth are sharp. While most of their learning will happen in puppyhood, you’ll still need to play the role of teacher from time to time once they grow up. Expectations are placed on our partners by society, and it’ll be up to you to help your partner meet those expectations without completely destroying their autonomy in the process. It’s a tricky line to walk between teacher and lover. But those aren’t your only roles, you’ll also be their carer for as long as they live with you.
Your partner will rely on you for all their basic needs. While you can give them some autonomy, you’ll ultimately be responsible for anything that costs money or that they can’t physically do themselves. Things like buying food, grooming, and providing medical care. Giving them autonomy requires some thought. For example, if you don’t have a safe toileting area they can access by themselves overnight, don’t be surprised if your partner wakes you at the crack of dawn to go to the toilet, or if they end up using your luxuriously plush carpet. If you’re distracted and they want something that they need your help to get, they might bark at you or start nudging you insistently for attention. Something they might want from you, if you’re fortunate, is some sexy fun times, but when it comes to loving a dog, there are no guarantees that they’ll be interested in you as a sexual partner.
Unrequited love is hard enough among humans, but it can be much harder with a canine partner. Every dog is different, and you may end up with one who doesn’t feel the same way about you as you do about them. If things don’t work out the way you hope, and you can’t find them a new home, you’ll still need to take care of them while respecting their choice. Depending on the kind of person you are, this can still be rewarding, or it can be slow and painful torture. If you’re the latter, it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge, but a dark temptation can be very real, and you’ll be fighting it the rest of their life, especially if you don’t have a healthy outlet for your desire. That’s hard to live with.
Regardless of the kind of relationship you end up having with your canine partner, you still have one more thing to consider, their death. It’s a sad fact of life that humans generally live much longer than dogs. If you’re lucky, they’ll die peacefully at home, sleeping beside you. If you’re not so lucky, they may be killed by accident, attacked by another animal, or murdered by the worst kind of human scum. The other possibility is that they may get so unwell that you need to euthanize them.
Euthanization isn’t an option that should be taken lightly, but if you face the possibility, I found it helpful to give some consideration before hand to the circumstances when it would be the best option for my partner. It won’t make losing your partner any easier, but it can help you make a decision when your emotions are running high, and can give you the chance to make their last moments the best they can possibly be. Deciding to euthanize my partner was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but my love for her gave me the strength to do what was right for her under the circumstances, even though I knew her death would leave my life devoid of most of its meaning.
While I’m trying to find meaning for my life now that my canine partner’s gone, I’m reflecting on how things can be better for my next partner, assuming I decide to walk this path again. My partner and I had a great life together, but I know I could’ve done better for her. I went into our relationship with insecurity and a tendency to worry a lot, and having a canine partner didn’t magically make those things go away. I’ll be spending time with a zoo friendly therapist before I consider a new partner. I encourage others like me to consider seeking professional help before entering a new relationship, so you can get the most from it and fully enjoy the journey with your partner.
Loving a dog is hard work, much like any good relationship, but we have more to consider than we would going into a relationship with a human. It isn’t all hard work and responsibility though. Loving a dog can also be rewarding, and, when we lose them, painful. To think that zoos are somehow weak or taking the easy way out by loving an animal is to ignore all the challenges and responsibilities that come with being a zoo. There aren’t many who could go into every romantic relationship knowing they’ll be responsible for teaching their partner and taking care of all their basic needs, knowing they’ll almost certainly outlive their partner, but we do it anyway, because we love animals and can’t imagine our lives without them.
Article written by Paul (December 2022)
Find him at https://twitter.com/webboy42
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