This week was my dog Fred's third birthday. Although I have never previously had a pet of any kind, I have very clearly become "one of those people." You know, one of those "dog people" with pictures of my little guy just about everywhere: at home, in the office, on my Facebook page, and in my cellphone. For instance, many gay men hide their cellphones for fear of the embarrassment that might come from someone seeing a picture of a naked gentleman caller or a selfie with an exposed private body part. I loathe admitting that my cellphone has zero naked selfies, but it does have over 4,000 pictures of Fred, taking the embarrassment to an entirely different level.
In describing Fred in public, I've even been known to use words such as "BFF," "wingman" and "boo," leading some to seriously -- or at least jokingly -- express concern about my obvious affection for this 8-pound Yorkshire Terrier. Lately, on more than one occasion, I have caught myself thinking of starting a conversation about Fred with, "He's not my boyfriend, but...," leading me to give some serious thought to what might follow. So, without giving any ammunition to Rick Santorum, who once compared gay sex to "man on dog" sex, here goes:
He's not my boyfriend, but Fred loves to cuddle -- everywhere. This makes going to bed each night total bliss. He is neither a pillow hog nor a comforter thief. When he snores I think it is simply the cutest sound I have ever heard, in stark contrast to the nails-on-a-blackboard sound of a snoring boyfriend. And the best part is that he is so compact that there is plenty of room in our bed for Mr. Right, if and when he comes along to join us.
He's not my boyfriend, but Fred couldn't care less whether I gained a few pounds, or -- God forbid! -- decided to stop going to the gym for a few months. For any self-respecting gay man these occurrences can mean the premature end to one's social life. But Fred's love is unconditional no matter the size of my muffin top. In fact, he encourages me to not go to the gym, because it means more time for walks by the lake or time at home together for a little roughhousing with stuffed squeaky toys.
He's not my boyfriend, but Fred would never cheat. Never! Although I have admittedly been lucky, I'm not immune to this with respect to former boyfriends. Let's face it: Men can be, well, dogs. (Sorry, Fred!) In contrast, Fred's loyalty is undeniable, unwavering and unquestioned. He is there for me every night and every morning and greets me with enthusiasm at the end of every workday. He knows exactly who his main squeeze is, and he would never stray or bite the hand that, quite literally, feeds him.
He's not my boyfriend, but Fred never tries to control the remote. He lets me watch whatever television show I want. He is down for whatever makes me happy. Whether it is my obsession with MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski and The Morning Joe, Duke Basketball games on ESPN or NeNe Leakes on Bravo's Real Housewives of Atlanta, Fred is totally game for whatever I select. I secretly like to think he shares my crush on Ms. Brzezinski.
He's not my boyfriend, but Fred is a date magnet. It's a little-known fact that I can be incredibly shy in social venues traditionally designed to meet people. The last time I spontaneously went up to guy in a bar to initiate conversation was in 1987, and the latest Duran Duran or Pat Benatar video was playing in the background. And forget Internet dating. The fears associated with watching The Craigslist Killer on Lifetime have essentially killed any possibility of success for me in that arena. But Fred's cute face, little body and adorable strut are a conversation waiting to happen on every walk we take. Admittedly, until now, he has only managed to connect me with girls and young women in my neighborhood, but there is no denying his tremendous promise as a love connector.
He's not my boyfriend, but with Fred I do not have to worry about what my mother or family thinks. Taking a new boyfriend to meet my colorful (read: somewhat crazy) and traditional Italian-American family can be fraught with a number of relationship landmines and stress. (Sorry, Mom! You know I love you.) But with Fred it's a piece of cake. I mean, you can't help but fall in love with him as I have.
He's not my boyfriend, but Fred is totally up for every silly, harebrained scheme I come up with. This includes being pimped out without complaint for countless promotional events related to our Fred Says charity, which supports HIV-positive teens. Fred is my straight man (though no one would ever call me straight), the Ricky Ricardo to my Lucy. This past spring he endured a somewhat grueling two-day photo shoot for our upcoming Men of Fred calendar, set to launch next week.
So, sure, Fred isn't my boyfriend, but he is by my side every day, wanting nothing more than a belly rub or an occasional treat. And for now that's better than anything I can ask for from a boyfriend. I guarantee it.
To keep up and all things Fred, and to check out our new Men of Fred 2014 calendar, visit fredsays.org.