Faithful Sidekick – How to Bring a Four-legged Tonto or Doctor Watson into Your Life

According to one study, pets are appearing in progressively more GLBT households each and every year. Obviously, GLBT couples have some biological barriers as far as child bearing is concerned, and oftentimes, companion animals afford us a shortcut to parenthood. In humans, unconditional love is called “codependence”; in pets, it’s the whole point. The unconditional love of a pet works the same, regardless of the love object’s gender identity.
Photos by E.B. BoatnerAdopting a companion animal represents no small measure of commitment, responsibility, and (frankly) cost. That said, acquiring a pet has never been easier, but the most karma-rich method of bringing an animal into your life is getting one from a shelter. The local rescue scene is dominated by the Animal Humane Society, which has locations in Buffalo, Coon Rapids, Golden Valley, St. Paul, and Woodbury. Animal Ark Shelter is another local organization renowned for its work with dogs and cats. MARRS is a St.-Louis-Park-based rescue service that specializes in birds.

Just as foster kids have become a fixture in society at large, so, too, have foster pets. Breeders—that is, dog breeders, not straight people—and puppy mills have, in recent years, fallen out of favor as pet fonts.

Virtually every expert agrees that it’s best to spay or neuter the newest member of your family, both for the health of the pet and to alleviate possible pet overpopulation problems in the future. Just don’t tell them we said so.

Once you’ve brought a new pet into your home, your furniture and carpets will be all for training…particularly if your newbie is doggie. Training is as much about the owner as it is the pet, and housebreaking, leash control, and not-chewing are the most common lessons requested from trainers. Here in Minnesota, there are nearly as many obedience schools as there are lakes. Amazing Tails of Obedience, C & E Dog Training Center, Going to the Dogs, the Hearing and Seeing Dog Program, Just Paws Training, Twin Cities Obedience Training, and various Petsmart locations all offer some degree of canine conditioning. (Anyone who has figured out how to train a cat is encouraged to visit the nearest patent office.) At its core, training is more about improving communication between the two-legged and four-legged companions, and the strengthened bond that inevitably results.

Showing off these newfound skills is half the fun of having them, both for dog and owner. Happily, numerous local parks can serve as the stage for such laudable performances. The north corner of Minneapolis’s answer to Central Park—Loring Park—is nicely segregated for dogs. The St. Anthony Parkway Off-Leash Recreation Area is 2.3 acres set aside for canine cruising, across from the Columbia Golf Learning Center within Minneapolis proper. Franklin Terrace Off-Leash Recreation Area is a 1.6-acre area of Riverside Park that has been given to Man’s Best Friend. Lake of the Isles has reserved 3.6 miles specifically for four-legged folly. And, most generous of all, 4.3 miles of Minnehaha Park have been ceded to the poochies. Each of these venues requires a special permit from Minneapolis Animal Control.

Obviously, your new best friend won’t be able to demonstrate his housebrokeness without eating, digesting, and…well, you know. Pet food is available in profusion, of course, but GLBT owners are notorious for spoiling their four-legged babies. Gourmet dog bones are popular among the canines adopted into our tribe, and organic cat treats spoil palates of the felines of the species. Ice cream and baked goods are also popular indulgences.

Of course, your pet can’t go with you everywhere, and various boarding options exist. Downtown Dogs has established itself as a touchstone of this service. The canine clientele benefits from the socialization provided by such a setting, and exercise is a foregone conclusion. Alternately, for the doganthrope in your family, individual boarding is also possible. Furry Friend Daycare, Goldwood Kennels, Pet’s Partners, and Pucci Parc are just a bare pawful of possible boarding options.

Of course, there’s no boarding like overboarding, and if you’re determined to ruin your pet, numerous local businesses are only too glad to assist. Lulu & Luigi, located in the usually-sensible suburb of St. Louis Park, is an enterprise that specializes in canine makeovers including shampoo aromatherapy shampoo treatments. Top Dog Country Club is nestled wayyy out in New Germany, but your pet will think the extra miles are worth it: after all, where else can he be exposed to a heated swimming pool (dog-paddle not required), spa service (including a massage), and custom-made beds (mints not included)? Further, Top Dog dogs have the option of checking out the wooded trails adjacent to the building; sitting in on the storytelling; or taking part in—wait for it—yappy hour, where Sinatra songs are played and homemade biscuits are served. Woof Dah! is technically a daycare facility, but it takes the notion of “care” to a smoochy extreme: The Rover in your life will be treated to a bubble bath, a meditation hour, and designated cuddle time.

Pets: They’re not just our GLBT friends; they’re our GLBT family.

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