By Jessica Carreras
The love of Andrew DePrisco’s life is loyal, affectionate, well-groomed and high class. Unfortunately for his partner, Robert White, his main amore also has four legs and goes to the bathroom in the backyard. Don’t get them wrong – their 11 years (and counting) human relationship is strong and healthy. But from the first week the New Jersey-based couple started dating, DePrisco made one thing clear: He would always have two dogs and they would always be purebred Shiba Inu. “He wasn’t unhappy with it, but he wasn’t as committed to that breed as I was,” DePrisco says of his confession. “He pretty much had to accept it.”
That’s DePrisco’s number one rule: Never choose a man over your dog. You will regret it, he warns. But that’s just one of many tongue-in-cheek – yet strangely accurate – observations he makes in his book, “Woof! A Gay Man’s Guide to Dogs” (BowTie Press, $19.95).
DePrisco has been training, showing and raising dogs since the 1980s, not to mention instructing others on how to choose the right dog for them and how to raise and train a “perfect puppy” through his dozens of books. “Woof!,” which was published this summer, is a combination of his two loves – gay men and purebred dogs – bound together with his witty observations about the former and straight-up knowledge about the latter. “It’s all joking, but there are certain things that are obvious,” he says of the book. “Some of it is for fun, but basically I think any dog that a person gets, he should raise and train and socialize in the right way.”
When it comes to matching a breed of gay man with the right breed of pooch, it’s obvious that DePrisco knows his stuff. In “Woof!” he divides gay men into 28 humorous categories, covering everything from drag queens and twinks to cowboys and “gasians.” Whether you’re a fashionista or a pump boy, DePrisco knows the right dog for you.
But what he’s become an accidental expert on is adding a dog to a gay relationship – and adding a relationship to life with a dog (which is harder depends on the man and the dog). The two loves, he insists, are intertwined. “The experience of selecting a dog and bringing it into (your) life opens up the possibilities of understanding what unconditional love is like,” he explains.
Likewise, he says, bringing a dog into a relationship can strengthen the bond between two people, much in the same way a child does. For he and White, purchasing a four-legged friend together after one of DePrisco’s died added another element of connection, but the real bond came from watching White take care of his 17-year-old dog. “I love the fact that my partner takes him outside or gives him a bath,” DePrisco says.
Whether single or living together, looking for a hook-up or breaking up – pets play a factor. DePrisco, the unofficial authority on melding the furry-barking-wet-nosed part of a gay man’s life with the love and sex part, insists that there are protocols to follow when a dog, a man or both enters the picture.
Ah, the depressing truth of spending your nights with Sandra Bullock movies, ice cream and your best fag hag. What better way to find love than to purchase a gorgeous Maltese, known for being gentle and affectionate – just like your dream man. “Dogs can be an instant cure for loneliness,” DePrisco writes in his book. “This adorable button-nosed creature thinks of you as the center of his universe, and you feel needed and wanted.” When’s the last time you could say that about a partner? Besides, a cute man walking a cute dog is a sure-fire way to attract some attention of the two-legged kind.
However, DePrisco warns, buying a dog solely as a man magnet or a boyfriend replacement is the wrong way to go. “It’s more about he commitment you make to a dog,” he explains. The bottom line: Buy a dog because you want a dog, not because you want love.
Dogs can be a great way to score a date. Or just score. That hyper-active Yorkshire Terrier has no qualms with licking the hand of the hottest hunk in the local park – even if you can’t work up the guts.
However, there is always the chance that Mr. Right won’t be a dog lover. When you purchase a dog, “you now have a new criteria for dating,” says DePrisco. If that stud you bumped carts with at the grocery store has a bag of food for Fluffy on his list, some might write off the possibility for a relationship from the start. The truth: Allergies and differing tastes shouldn’t stand in the way of testing the waters.
On the contrary, a mutual adoration of poodles doesn’t always mean smooth sailing. Being single with a dog can make it tempting to let little Trixie share the bed – but when your new beau comes over to stay the night, your sweet puppy will turn into a grade-A bitch, growling, attacking and even showing her displeasure by leaving surprise puddles on your sheets. “To avoid having to choose between your dog and your bitch, don’t start the puppy on the bed,” advises DePrisco. “Place his own bed (or crate) next to yours, and encourage him to sleep there.”
If it’s too late to take that advice, DePrisco suggests using it as a test for the new squeeze. If he’s willing to share the bed with you and the superbitch-dog, he’s a keeper.
DePrisco can’t stress it enough: When forced to choose between a man and a dog, always choose the dog. “Your relationship with your dog is likely to last longer than your relationship with a man,” he asserts. “You’ll never forgive yourself for getting rid of your dog.” Plus, could you really love a man who doesn’t love your Bichon Frise?
If the partner has pets of their own, DePrisco insists that the two be introduced properly before the couple moves in together. “Let them meet each other and smell each other and do what dogs do,” he says. The worst thing to do, he warns, is to keep them on leashes, which encourages panic and aggression.
When purchasing a pet for a partner, the go-to advice has always been “Don’t do it.” DePrisco, however, disagrees – depending. “It can be an exciting gift if you know what kind of dog your partner would like,” he explains. Having trouble choosing between a Golden Lab and a Miniature Dachshund? “There’s something to be said in choosing a dog together,” DePrisco says. “I don’t think it’s a bad idea.”
Like having children, however, buying pets to solve arguments or fix a failing relationship is never a good idea. You, your man and the dog will all end up unhappy.
When a lengthy relationship with mutual living space and possibly mutual dogs ends, it’s much like a divorce between a couple with children. The big question is: Who keeps the pups? “I would always say that couples, especially if they have the room and finances to do it, should always get two dogs, just in case,” DePrisco says matter-of-factly. “If you split, you can each take a dog.” Sure, it sounds harsh, but luckily, unlike kids, dogs won’t mind being split up, he explains. “As strange as it sounds, I think that when one dog disappears, the other dog is like ‘OK, whatever,'” he adds.
For some, the bond to a man’s dog can rival that to the man. Dumpees, however, should use this attachment to better their own lives. When pining for both Paul and his Pomeranian, get one of your own and name it, “Fine Without You, Bitch!” Just make sure to introduce it to people as something nicer, like Co-Co.
If you’re a gay woman, you’ve been sitting here scoffing and saying “What about me?” Don’t worry. DePrisco knows about chicks and their Cocker Spaniels, too. Currently, he’s working on a book for lesbians with pooches called “Puppy Whipped.” Expect it to be filled with all the humor and helpful hints for purchasing purebreds found in “Woof!” Just don’t expect it to fix your love life.