New Book Lets Gay Celebrities Talk About Being Pet Parents

What a lovely idea for a book! I haven't read the book, but it sure sounds like a lot of these folks are Dogsters at...

Sam and Neil Plakcy

What a lovely idea for a book! I haven’t read the book, but it sure sounds like a lot of these folks are Dogsters at heart!

If you’ve read Paws and Reflect, bark in and let the rest of us know what you think about it!

Thanks to the Miami Herald for this article.

Dogs enhance gay celebs’ lives

In a new collection of essays, 25 gay celebrities tell how their lives have changed by becoming doggie daddies.

”Having a dog is like having a child,” said Neil Plakcy of Hollywood, who edited the book, Paws And Reflect: Exploring the Bond Between Gay Men and Their Dogs. “You have to make your life with this other creature work. You have to be sure to be home to feed and walk this animal. You have to schedule your life. You can’t just go off from work in the evening. You have to make a pit stop at home.”

”In Florida, it’s hard for gay men to have children. For a lot of even coupled men, the dogs become their children. I thought that would be an interesting thing to explore,” said Plakcy, 49, who writes mysteries and is an assistant English professor at Broward Community College.

Plakcy, a gay man with a golden retriever named Sam, compiled Paws and Reflect ($25, Alyson) with a longtime friend, NBC News producer Sharon Sakson of New Jersey, who is straight and also judges dog shows.

At first, Plakcy and Sakson sought out stories from gay men she works with on the dog-show circuit. They didn’t have much luck.

”Sharon, as a straight woman, gay-friendly and comfortable around gay people, had no idea how much homophobia there was in the world, and internalized homophobia,” Plakcy said. “She went to the people in the shows, who are out in the world — people who backed away from being in a gay book.”

Then they changed their focus a bit, going the celebrity route. The book consists of short essays by gay notables including Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf), Animal Planet host David Mizejewski (Backyard Habitat) and Tony-nominated playwright Charles Busch (Tale of the Allergist’s Wife).

Busch recounts how his childhood pet shepherd, Wolfie, filled the void after his mother’s sudden death. ”As a child, I felt alone, and different, at least partly because I didn’t have a mother,” he wrote. “Wolfie was my friend. He was the one who was with me the most. . . . He just loved me. He was there for me for whatever I needed.”

Among the book’s local contributors is novelist Jay Quinn of Plantation. ”It’s amazing the depth of feeling we have for these companion animals,” he said.

Quinn, 48, writes the sad story of his beloved pet Travis, a Labrador-Doberman mix who developed a brain disorder and had to be put to sleep at age 5.

”The intent really was to honestly convey the experience to walk that last mile with a dog,” Quinn said. “If you have a pet — if you’re a dog person — it’s something you have to face eventually. They have limited life spans. As much as you love them, you go in knowing you’ll take them from childhood to elderly.”

Quinn, whose recently released novel The Good Neighbor is about a gay couple and a straight couple who live next to each other in a West Broward gated community, has two surviving dogs.

”They’re absolutely my children,” he said. “I lavish them with my affection and my love. I work at home and I’m alone a good deal of the time. The dogs are wonderful company.”

Quinn said that Paws and Reflect may be about gay men and their dogs, but that the book has universal appeal.

”Because the book was dreamed up for a gay publisher, it has a gay slant, but it’s certainly not something that’s particularly gay,” Quinn said. “If you say that gay couples treat our pets as children, so do straight couples who don’t have children.”

Plakcy says that he and Sakson hope to edit follow-up books about lesbian pet owners and gay people with cats.

”The issue of same-sex couples or same-sex-liking persons and their pets hasn’t been explored that much. Our dogs, cats, lizards, whatever are important to us,” said Plakcy, who will appear Sunday at a Pet Project for Pets benefit, sponsored by the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Pet Project for Pets is an Oakland Park-based nonprofit group that helps people with AIDS and other severe illnesses keep their animals.

The benefit, to be hosted by WFOR-CBS 4 meteorologist David Bernard, will be at Mary’s Resort in Fort Lauderdale, a pet-friendly guesthouse opened in April by real-estate broker Keith Blackburn.

”The gay men who travel here take very good care of their pets, bring a bed and water bowl. . . . The type of person who cares enough to bring the pet with them, the pet is well cared for, trained and groomed,” said Blackburn, 37, who named the resort for his 7-year-old Boston terrier, Mary.

On the resort’s website, Blackburn, 37, calls himself Mary’s “daddy.”

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