Scroll To Top

Dogs and the men
who love them

Dogs and the men
who love them


The bond between gay men and their best friends, as witnessed at the AKC/Eukanuba dog show and beyond.

Sharon Sakson is a dog show judge, television producer, journalist, hound breeder, and, now, published author. She is scheduled to be at a booth, signing copies of her book, at the annual American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship dog show in Long Beach, Calif., but she can't sit still. She makes a break from her table to explore the enormous convention center, checking out nearly every breed present at the show.

The coauthor of Paws and Reflect: Exploring the Bond Between Gay Men and Their Dogs smiles and nods to some handlers and owners she recognizes. After so long in the dog world, many of the same people and dogs pop up everywhere she goes. She says she can recognize more than 300 breeds of dog, almost twice as many as are registered with the AKC.

Paws and Reflect, released November 1, is the brainchild of Sakson, who is straight, and longtime friend Neil Plakcy. The pair knew each other growing up and became good friends when they reunited at a writers conference. They edited each other's work for a while, then they realized it was time to collaborate. After considering potential topics, they decided that Sakson's knowledge of the dog world and Plakcy's connections with other gay writers and pet owners laid a perfect foundation for a book about the unconditional love between gay men and their dogs.

"A higher percentage of gay men have dogs than the general population," Sakson says. "They usually don't have any kids but have a lot of love to give. And sometimes [gay] men and women have no connection to their own family, so the dog in their life really is their family."

The dog community and the gay community have a lot in common, Sakson explains. The binding thread, however, is that many dog people accept LGBT people because they, too, so often behave against the norm. "We have to be an accepting community," Sakson says. "All of us have somewhere between four and 12 dogs, which you have to be a little crazy to do. Gay is nowhere near being a so-called problem."

Sakson says she loved working with contributors to the book because that experience introduced new people into her life. One of them is Justin Rudd, a Long Beach activist and dog enthusiast who attended the AKC/Eukanuba show with his bulldogs, 9-year-old Rosie and 10-month-old Riley. Rudd pulls his beautiful, panting, drooling dogs, each with personalities people fawn over wherever they go, in a Radio Flyer wagon.

Rudd is active in a network of charity and awareness events throughout the nation. He keeps busy with photography but is probably best known for his work on behalf of the Haute Dog parade ("A gay man is not afraid to dress up his dog for a parade") and bulldog beauty contest. And in 2001 Rudd started Santa Paws, a now-national program delivering supplies and holiday treats to shelter dogs. "Operation Santa Paws allows me to express my love for other dogs," he says. "I have a lot of love in my heart, but there's more I can give to abused or neglected dogs."

With all of this, the Alabama native still has energy to work on several weekly e-newsletters and spend time with his dogs at the Dog Zone, a three-acre beach area near his home that he worked with local officials to designate as dog-friendly. "We were living a block away from the beach and we weren't able to bring our dogs," Rudd says. To his knowledge the Dog Zone is the only official off-leash dog beach in Los Angeles County.

In addition to producing a weekly gay and lesbian e-newsletter, among other endeavors, he organizes an annual Blessing of the Animals event in a local park. More than 300 dogs, cats, and other animals are brought to the park for an interfaith blessing. "Gay people know it's organized by a gay man, so they don't feel intimidated to show up," Rudd says.

The unconditional love that Sakson cited as a driving force behind her book certainly lives in Rudd.

"The joy that I get from having dogs, I mean, how do you express it?" Rudd says. "I guess the saying about dog being man's best friend is true. Just when the world around you isn't going the way it's supposed to, your dog can give you joy."

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Michelle Garcia