Gender expression: a dog’s perspective

Dog on leash dressed in plaid coat and purple rubber boots

Is this outfit not femmy enough for our girl?

All work and no play makes my blog boring, don’t you think?

Happy Pride all! I’ll be crying happy tears again Sunday for all the brave marchers in the parade. I guess I’d better remember Kleenex. So I figured everyone, including that homophobic bus driver who refuses to drive Calgary’s Pride bus and the Kentucky clerk who’s in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, could use a reminder that we are all Free to Be, You and Me.

Both J. and I are open-minded parents who want Jelly to feel comfortable in her own skin fur. We don’t care that people often mistake Jelly for a boy; she’s low to the ground, so it’s hard to see her privates. Or do they think she’s male because she’s into rough-and-tumble play and humps her bestie Rosie sometimes? We’ve certainly never felt she minded having two mommies.

But lately I’ve been wondering why Jelly cowers under the dining room table whenever I get ready to take her for a walk. Every other dog in the universe gets excited when the leash comes out.

Walk time is the happiest time of Jelly’s day, once we get out the door. She prances along, gazing up at me adoringly every so often, even kissing my hand to say “Thank you mommy!” She greets every living being she sees, saving her special “I love you!’ howl for the children.

Wise psychologist that I am, I determined Jelly’s cowering had something to do with her outerwear. She doesn’t have a lot of fur, so when it’s very cold outside, we dress her in her snazzy plaid winter jacket before we head out. And because the salt on the sidewalks hurts her tender tootsies, we also put on her little purple boots, which look like little balloons, to protect her feet. We may sound like overprotective parents, but really we are just making possible a winter walk in the harsh northern elements.

So what does she do? She splats down flat as a pancake quivering with fear when she sees her jacket. She prefers naked walks or no walk at all on those coldest winter days. She even refuses to do her business while she is fully attired. For all I know, the huskies and malamutes are laughing at her, and she doesn’t want to be shamed. Yes, I know, it’s been summer for the last three months, but Jelly hasn’t quite figured that out.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe all she sees is typical lesbian attire–plaid tops and comfortable shoes–which conflicts with her feminine self-view. Maybe she’d prefer a little dress like the Pomeranian down the street, or perhaps pearls and high heels.

So yesterday I sat down with her and read my second-favourite dog picture book (first is Walter the Farting Dog.) It’s Pugdog by Andrea U’ren. Pugdog is a little rough-and-tumble girl whose dad thinks she’s a boy because of how she behaves. Once he realizes Pugdog is a girl, the dad starts dressing her and treating her as such. Pugdog rebels. Thankfully, everything works out in the end. Pugdog even befriends a prissy poodle who is–you guessed it–male.

Then Jelly and I sang a few songs from Free to Be, and Jelly assured me she got the message. Just to be sure, we went out together to buy her a new outfit. We don’t care how she dresses, or whether she wears dresses, so long as she’s happy. Turns out she’s fine with the boyish look (see below). Guess she must just hate winter. Now that I understand.

Basset dog in overalls, running shoes and sunglasses.




6 thoughts on “Gender expression: a dog’s perspective

  1. So funny!! Charlie is the same, although I think his issues are more along the Aspergers line. He hates the extra stuff and won’t walk (??) when he has his harness. I guess dogs can be as quirky as their owners. Have a fabulous (very busy!) weekend.


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