My Doggy Valentine
For the queer love of dogs.
Ned Warren and John Marshall
February is a month of love so I couldn’t resist sharing with you a couple of different amazing projects that are all about the love of queer folks and dogs – what could be better?!
To start I want to share an incredible chapbook that is available online for free download from award winning author Daphne Gottlieb about her incredible relationship with her late dog Doomsday Honneymoon (2007-2018) a 3 pound chihuahua. In the prologue to the chapbook “My Dog Teaches Me Things" Daphne writes “I was honoured to serve as Doomsday Honeymoon’s Emotional Support Animal for the past 5 years. He was a creature of light and stories. I would have written “magic”, but that’s what you get when you combine light and stories anyhow.” Is that not the perfect way to talk about the specialness of dogs?! I feel a special affinity for this book as my own very tiny chihuahua mix who has been with me since I began flirting with adulthood has reached the ancient age of 16.5 years old and has become significantly frailer.
I read as many dog stories as I can get my hands on, but it’s rare that I find one that breaks me open so completely as this one has. From the moment I read the chapbook I knew that I had to share it with you and that Curve readers would appreciate it as much as I have. Doomsday’s story is one of devotion and the love that exists between a very special dog and a person. Filled with adorable pictures of Doomsday the chapbook brings together the story of his little life, his rescue, his health conditions and also the joy he experienced and brought to others.
You can read Doomsday’s story for free online here.
You don’t want to miss this!
This month I also learned about a new online gallery project LGBTQ History With Dogs organized by the academics Jen Grove and Jana Funke and bringing together photographs of queer people in history who shared a special bond and love with dogs! I sat down with Jen and Jana to talk with them a little bit about the project and learn more about what inspired the collection and what’s coming next:
Sassafras: How did you get the idea for the LGBTQ History With Dogs page?
Jen: We are both academics and our research focuses on the history of sexuality and gender in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century. One of the LGBTQ+ authors Jana works on is the writer Radclyffe Hall who bred and showed dogs together with her partner Una Troubridge. There are many great photographs of the two of them together with their prize-winning French bulldogs and dachshunds. I work on the collector Edward Perry Warren, who kept dogs together with his partner John Marshall.
Jana: One day, Jen gave a brilliant lecture on Warren and showed an amazing photograph of him and Marshall holding two matching puppies. I think they must have been Jack Russel terriers. After the lecture, Jen and I started talking about LGBTQ+ people and dogs, and this conversation sparked the idea for this blog. We have been obsessed ever since!
Sassafras: What has been the most surprising thing about working on this project?
Jen: Just how easy it is to find photographs of LGBTQ+ people with dogs once you start looking! We all know the old stereotype about lesbians loving cats, but here we have found so many examples of women who love women ... and dogs! And there are loads of other people across the LGBTQ+ spectrum who wanted to be pictured with their pooches.
Sassafras: What is your favourite photo you've come across?
Jen: As a classicist and someone who studies how the modern world looks to the ancient world to understand sexuality, my favourite is a sketch by Edward Perry Warren’s partner, John Marshall, made around the turn of the 20th century of a scene from an ancient Greek vase. It shows what scholars calls Greek "male courtship" (one man is touching the other man's genitals) and right behind the two men is an ancient hound! I love it because it is a queer reception of queer history with dogs!
Jana: I have a photograph of American author Gertrude Stein, her life-long partner Alice B. Toklas and their beloved poodle in my apartment. The poodle was called Basket, and was quite the celebrity among modernist artists: the famous photographer Man Ray took a beautiful portrait of Basket, and Stein’s close friend, Pablo Picasso, created a collage entitled “Hommage à Basket”.
Sassafras: What do you hope people will take away from the project?
Jen: A deeper appreciation of dogs! And of LGBTQ+ history, of course! There is something about many of these images that is very intimate - they often take us inside the private lives of well-known figures, however staged the images might be, and they suggest that LGBTQ+ people in the past were in some ways just like us in their love for their pets!
Jana: I hope people look at these photographs and appreciate how LGBTQ+ people across history have created their own queer families, not necessarily by having human babies, but by loving their dogs.
Sassafras: How do you find pictures to include in the tumblr?
Jen: Many we find online or through our research in historical archives - those are the most exciting! A lot of our friends and colleagues have started to share our obsession, and they keep sending us amazing photographs as well.
Sassafras: Where do you hope the project will go next/how does this project relate to other work of yours?
Jen: It relates to our research, as we have suggested, and also to our enthusiasm for sharing our research and the amazing people, texts and objects we work on with people outside of academia. We both do lots of work with LGBTQ+ communities, with young people and schools, and with the wider public, getting them involved in telling the history of sexuality and gender.
Jana: As Jen said, talking about LGBTQ+ history and dogs is always a good conversation starter! I am curious to see what photographs and stories we find next. Who knows, if we find the time, we might even turn this into a longer publication. There is certainly enough material, and it would be interesting to see what happens when we try to write LGBTQ+ histories through a canine lens.
Sassafras Lowrey is a straight-edge queer punk who grew up to become the 2013 winner of the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award. Sassafras’ books—Lost Boi, A Little Queermas Carol, Roving Pack, Kicked Out and Leather Ever After—have been honored by organizations ranging from the National Leather Association to the American Library Association. Sassafras lives and writes in Portland, Oregon with hir partner, and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Learn more at www.SassafrasLowrey.com