My Dad Brian and I have been reflecting on our relationship. He asked me if I was happy. He asked Carson Kressley the same question. He asks everyone that question, even homeless people outside Home Depot. “Are you happy?” It’s a good question. It makes you think. “What does it take to be happy?” “What does it look like to be happy?” “Do you clap your hands, when you’re happy?”
“I’m very happy,” I told him, although, not everything in my life is perfect. It never is until you decide it is, but that requires wisdom beyond my years. My dads do everything they can think of to show me kindness, and love. They watch my health and well-being carefully, and, they’re very patient with my one or two shortcomings. I think I’m most happy when I see that my dads are happy. When I see them laughing, I laugh. That’s how it works in our house. Dad Ray is most happy when he sees that Dad Brian is happy, Dad Brian is most happy when he sees that Dad Ray is happy, and they both spend a lot of their day hoping to make sure I’m happy.
For the record, none of us can “make” others happy, and our happiness shouldn’t be dependent on someone else being happy, but, you can do different things for others to contribute to the happiness of their lives, such as licking their face. How could that not make you happy? What else do I do, you ask? I sit in their lap. I’m a little big for that, but no one complains. I lie against them in bed. It makes them feel secure. Me too. I pee and poop as quickly as I can when they’re walking me in the rain. Wouldn’t you?
Dogs are very good at picking up on human moods, and responding accordingly. It’s in our DNA. We’ve been doing it since the Garden of Eden. I swear, a dog barked at Eve and growled at the snake. It’s not in the Bible, but there’s lots of true stuff that’s not in the Bible, such as Jesus having a dog. And as was true with him, we’ve been especially helpful with gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and queer children and adults who struggle with isolation and loneliness. Go ahead and ask an LGBT adult if they had a pet when they were young. If so, and they begin to reminisce, they’ll eventually remember how important that dog, cat, or horse was to them in feeling total acceptance. No matter how scary the world seemed to be, we were unquestioningly their constant companions. Your animal companions only cared if you felt love. If you didn’t, we licked, purred, or nuzzled.
I can tell if either of my dads is frustrated, or not feeling well. I’m only two, so my skills aren’t fully developed, but in these situations, I hang back until I get the lay of the land, and then I make my adorable presence felt. Sometimes, I just strike a pose that should be on a Hallmark card. “Oh, Ray, look at Lincoln. Isn’t he adorable?” I also use my nose to push their iPads out of my way, and I step up onto their chairs. “Hey, remember me?” Who doesn’t laugh when a dog chases its tail? We’re not stupid. We know we look insane. But, we do it solely for you. Consider it a gift from the universe.
Besides being wise and inexplicably adorable, I’m also a trained service dog. My one contribution to my dads’ safety is that when one of them falls, and says, “Lincoln, help!” I know that my job is to run to where they lie, stiffen my stance, and offer myself as a means of getting balance, and getting up. And it works. That’s why I get to ride inside the airplane.
My dads watch me as much as I watch them. They want me to feel safe, comfortable, and happy. So, they’re kind to me. I’m never hit, but I know other dogs are. I’m not angrily yelled at despite what mischief I enjoy. Dad Ray takes me for slow walks in the woods, using a walking stick. Dad Brian takes me in the car everywhere he goes. When he runs his errands, he leaves the car running, and NPR on the radio. I know they’re proud of me. I think they may even like me more than any dog they’ve had before. But, I don’t want them to say that out loud. Their other dogs are still watching and listening.
My dads aren’t young, lonely, gay adolescents. They’re old, wise, mature gay men. I got assigned to them at the end of their lives, but I know the dogs that were on duty many years ago. I’m a reward for lives lived well. I’m a guardian, a clown, a distraction, a responsibility. I keep them feeling younger than they might otherwise feel. The touch of my hair soothes them. A look in my eyes intrigues them. We’re a good match, the three of us. We’re independently happy beings who share our joy with each other, but it does make us happy when we see that the other two are.