Recently my world shifted from the mid-thirties to the late thirties. I’ve never really cared about it because age is just a number, right? I mean, I’m in the best shape of my life and look better than people much, much younger. My age never crossed my mind until a random twink who wasn’t even old enough to witness the most important sporting event of my youth - the Tanya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan kerfuffle! - called me a ”Daddy”.
A Daddy? Really? When I think of a “Daddy”, I think of this incredibly sexy older man, with rippling muscles and a nice furry chest - who may or may not be wearing leather chaps and a harness. Ok, maybe I have a hairy chest and I am two years away from the big 4-0, but I am no “Daddy.” Well, that is not quite the truth anymore...
A couple weeks before my birthday I realized that I have been single for so long and began to feel this primal urge to be a part of something bigger. I had this need to be responsible for something, someone outside of myself. So I decided that it was time for me to adopt and went in search for my baby - my doggie. There are so many dogs in need of good homes, especially pitbulls. To be totally honest, I think, subconsciously, I decided that I wanted a pitbull because they are often misunderstood and overlooked even by dog lovers. That’s how I feel sometimes being HIV-positive.
The adoption process was so much harder than I expected! My first stop was to the Animal Care and Control in Manhattan. Since I had never been to a shelter before I wasn’t sure what I should expect. I realize now that it is more akin to Auschwitz than a pet store. While I know that may be a bit harsh of a comparison, believe me, it’s the truth. Dog cages upon cages with the animals living in their own filth. But I was convinced I wanted a dog from that shelter, because it was a kill shelter.
The best decision I made that day was to take my friend Craig with me. Craig really isn’t an animal person and if it wasn’t for him I probably would’ve come home with an entire pack of dogs to make me the canine equivalent of a cat lady!
After a couple of other disappointing shelter visits, I ended up at the ASPCA. At first I was completely taken aback by how amazing the shelter was run. Seriously, it was like puppy condos. I was personally walked around and shown all the dogs. Then I met with a behaviorist that shared information about the dogs I was interested in. I ended up seeing three dogs. People told me, “Don’t worry about finding a dog – the dog will find you.” Blah, blah, blah. I was going to pick something cute and call it a day.
All three dogs were Pit mixes and between 30-40 lbs - the perfect apartment size dog. The first one they introduced me to was named “Clipper” but during the tour I didn’t have any interest in adopting him. He had a hard past. He was seized by the police from a fighting ring and he was their bait-dog. I was told that he was very kind and sweet, but very shy due to his past and not to worry if he didn’t approach me. As soon as they brought ”Clipper” into the room I noticed his scarred face and he walked right up to me and gave me a big sloppy kiss on the cheek.
I was done. It was over. He truly had me at hello.
They took him away and brought the other dogs to visit. Even though the counselor was trying to hard sell me one of the other dogs, I couldn’t stop thinking about “Clipper.” It was amazing how there was an automatic connection. But I was smart about it - I did not take him home that night. I decided to come back the next night and meet him again.
For our second date we went for a lovely stroll. There wasn’t any wine or food, but he did eat some leaves and drink the rainwater off the sidewalk.
I know all about the third date rule. But I couldn’t contain myself and took him home with me on the spot! I just could not abide by the name 'Clipper.' My dog's name had to have a little more panache. I knew at first glance, he was 'Mr. Bingley.' Not my favorite Jane Austen character, but with his goofy and sweet disposition, it was the only name that fit. I was lucky that I could take a couple days off for puppy paternity leave so we could get better acquainted.
I don’t want to jinx anything by speaking too early and I know we are still getting accustomed to each other, but it is going really, really well. It is hands down the best relationship I’ve had in years
Even though he’s the one with the furry chest and the harness, I guess I really am a “Daddy” now.