Unlike Lincoln, who immediately takes shotgun in the old, red, Mercedes convertible, Jeremy always jumped into the back of my red Opel station wagon. Perhaps, had it been a Mercedes, the Irish Setter, that I had given to a previous boyfriend for Christmas, would have wanted to ride up front too.
Maybe he stayed in the back of the Opel because it was easier for me to feed him there, mostly White Castle burgers and fries. I’d get a dozen burgers, and split them with him, the same way I give Lincoln Dairy Queen vanilla soft serve now. “One spoonful for you. One spoonful for me.”
Jeremy made the pilgrimage with me from Detroit’s chapter of Dignity to Boston, where the national office was located. I was semi-famous enough for Ray to know who I was. In 1974, I went on a hunger strike to protest the sins of the Catholic Church against gay people. When that ended, the Church fired me as a columnist and reporter, so I became a columnist and reporter in the gay press.
That notoriety might have scared many gay people from being seen with me in public, but not Ray. It’s not all that uncommon, you know, for closeted gay people not wanting to be seen with gay “activists.” When I was one of the only openly gay people in Boston City Hall in 1982, it was only a brave two Guys who would have lunch with me. When Ray had a rainbow flag on his desk at Lehman Brothers, only one young woman identified herself to him, this despite him being a managing director of the firm. I used to laugh when I watched closeted gay friends run from the produce section when they saw me heading in for a hug.
The Irish Setter didn’t know gay. He barked at Ray when my new roommate, and now husband of 43 years, climbed into the front seat of the red Opel. But then the dog stopped, which told me that there was something in the vibrations of this handsome strawberry blond man that appealed to both the dog and to me. Jeremy and I both counted on the kindness of this stranger to find our new home in Brookline, just over the Boston line, for the next eight years of our lives.
Poor Jeremy was our first dog, and as such, had the most strict, and clueless parents of any of the three dogs in our history. Oldest children will relate. We’ve learned in raising Lincoln, the spoiled Labradoodle, that any mistake the puppy makes is our fault, and not that of the dog. If the dog peed and pooped inside, we should have taken him out. If he chewed the table leg, we should have watched his behavior, and given him something else to chew. But, there was no such modern parenting methods with Jeremy. Whatever bad happened was always his fault. If he tipped over the kitchen garbage can while we were away, he was a bad boy. If he locked himself in the bathroom, it was his doing. He was loved deeply by us, but we had no dog owner training as twenty-year-olds, even having had dogs as children. I wish we could have a do-over with him. And, yet, we were perfect for each other, and the three of us were a tight family.
Jeremy had an opinion on everything, and readily gave it to everyone, whether they wanted to hear it or not, including to Elaine Noble, Lily Tomlin, Lisa Myers, Gerry Studds, Barney Frank, Neil Miller, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, Fr. Paul Stanley, Tomie dePaola, Stephen McCauley, and Gregory Maguire, among others. They all visited our third floor Brookline apartment, or our home in Gloucester, and all became aware of the Irish Setter’s voice. They also all loved him.
It was clear that Jeremy was my dog, although he and Ray had a love affair. But I was the alpha, and I made the rules, or lack thereof. While Lincoln gets no human food (except soft serve), Jeremy got whatever he wanted. It got to the point that he wouldn’t eat his dinner without decent scraps, and I never was able to finish a whole bowl of ice cream without him pawing his way into my heart and dessert.
Our three dogs, Jeremy, Brit, and Lincoln, have collectively ridden in a large assortment of cars, and like children, have encountered us in various stages of canine awareness and maturity, as we drove the backroads of their lives. All three have been linked through the various ups and downs, and episodes of our lives – passion, separation, experimentation, addiction, recovery, addiction, suicide, recovery, gay politics, transgender awareness, wealth, lean years, notoriety, tears, screams, laughter, therapy, prayer, Catholicism, atheism, Buddhism, agnosticism, Taoism, visiting parents, dead parents, visiting young nephews and nieces, visits by the children of those nephews and nieces, 42 Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Halloweens Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Easters, hundreds of presents, dozens of temporary best friends, and not once did any of them complain. Well, that’s not completely true. Jeremy barked, Brit walked away and curled up, and Lincoln sighs deeply.
If Jeremy or Brit were alive today, they would recognize our scent, but not our appearance. Lincoln knows that Ray walks with a cane, and that we both have gray hair. He’s never seen us wrestle, or dance fast in the living room. Time passes. Dogs age and die, and so will we, but what a time we all have had together.
Brian McNaught has been a leading educator on LGBTQ issues globally since 1974. He has made his many books and DVDs available for free at Brian-McNaught.com. The New York Times named him “The Godfather of gay diversity training.
“This is the first part of a series, to read part 2 click here”