As a man who cares deeply about his dog and wants to scream it from the rooftops, I’m outraged. Why? A study found that manly men are more likely to suppress the eternal affection they feel toward their pets and have trouble “placing into words the bond they have with their dogs.” It simply can’t be true.
There’s no doubt that hyper-macho guys struggle to display their emotions, but that doesn’t typically stop them from openly smothering their furry companions with impassioned hugs and tender smooches (or sneaking them some pizza crust). In fact, at least in my experience, men seem to be more likely to demonstrate fondness toward their pets than toward anyone or anything else. And contrary to what the study says, they’re also quite good at expressing those feelings (I’ll prove this in a moment).
Likewise, while it’s been argued that especially nefarious strains of masculinity are associated with forms of animal cruelty like cock fighting and hunting for sport, it could also be argued that endeavors like those are more in line with psychopath energy, not man energy (I understand that they can sometimes be one in the same, though).
On the whole, it appears that many manly dudes let their emotional guards down when pets are involved. As a passage from the book Men and Their Dogs: A New Understanding of Man’s Best Friend explains, “Animal companions offer many men a respite from the strain of traditional male gender roles.” As another study discovered, “Most men considered their pets to be members of the family.” And viral videos of dads embracing their beloved new pets are an entire online genre.
To be clear, the study I’m riled up about doesn’t exactly deny any of this. It even found that many guys feel just as, if not more, secure in their relationship with their pets than they do with other humans. It’s the notion that macho men hide those feelings that makes me uneasy, because men of all kinds look to be so publicly loving of their companions.
Case in point: I don’t consider myself to be a manly man, but I do have numerous hairs on my chest. Yet, I’ve published stories for all of the internet to read about how much I enjoy tucking my dog into bed, baking him doggie cupcakes and teaching him to open the fridge all on his own. My fondness for him is near-unrivaled and exceedingly obvious to anyone, even people who only know me from my stories.
I’m certainly not alone. To show the world that guys adore their pets and aren’t afraid to say it, I sent out a Bat-Signal of sorts, and the response was overwhelmingly wholesome.
Evan, 29, and his dog Lucy, who’s seven, are a match made in heaven, something that anyone who’s seen them together can see clearly. “She’s the most precious thing in the world to me,” he says. “When we wake up, I lie with her, put half of my body weight on her and she absolutely loves it. She just closes her eyes and takes my cuddles.”
The pair start every day together by walking along the beach and making their way to the same local coffee shop, where Evan buys a coffee and Lucy gets a dog treat. “The shop loves her,” he says. “How could you not?” Then, they head home and work. “When we’re back, she doesn’t leave my feet all day,” says Evan. “She’ll get up for a stretch and some kisses, but then she goes right back down.”
Stephen, 31, and his pooch Parker, who’s one and a half years old, are equally candid about their appreciation for one another. “I often stop in the middle of the sidewalk when Parker and I are going for walks just to hug her and give her kisses because she’s so fucking cute,” he explains. “I can’t help myself.”
In fact, Stephen appreciates Parker so much that he’s scheduled virtually his entire life around her. “I have a standing ‘meeting’ on my calendar at noon every day to take her for a long walk or to the dog park,” he says. “When I get back from any sort of exercise, I just lie on the ground and let her go to town and lick the sweat off of my face and neck.”
Stephen loves Parker right back: “I love literally everything about my dog: Her goofy, little smile, her inability to return the ball when we’re playing fetch, the way she doesn’t hold a grudge for a second, the way she needs to be touching me at least a tiny bit at all times when we’re in bed, the way she always wants to carry sticks that are at least twice her length — it’s all fucking adorable,” he continues. “Things I’d do for her? Kill or be killed. She’s my world, and I’m not one bit ashamed of this.”
Jordan, 43, even made an Instagram account devoted to his dog Milo, who’s five and a half years old. “I love his fuzzy everything: Ears, tummy, paws, human eyes and how he only barks at delivery people,” he tells me. “But he also has the kindest heart and makes absolutely everyone happy.”
Jordan’s fondness for Milo extends well beyond his physical appearance and doting heart. He appreciates his quirks, too, like “how he’ll use absolutely anything as a pillow,” “how he insists on climbing up and perching himself on houses with stoops” and how “he sleeps upside down like a fruit bat.” Milo was even the best man at Jordan and his wife Nadia’s wedding.
It’s not just dogs, either. Jackson, 28, cares deeply for his pooch, his cat and his trio of goats. “Even the toughest men love animals,” he tells me. “Having to take care of them day in and day out and watching them get old teaches you about yourself. What’s better than when a cat accepts you as their caretaker, and you know it chooses pretty freely?”
MEL’s very own Miles Klee just recently posted a photo of him cuddling a kitten to his more than 25,000 Twitter followers:
When I wrote about aquarium dudes last year, they also had shockingly close relationships with their fish, and they weren’t afraid to admit how much it hurts when one passes away.
Even celebrities, the most public of all men, aren’t at all shy about their love for pets. Steve-O credits his dog for helping him stay sober, Orlando Bloom has posted photos of him cuddling foster dogs to his Instagram and Tom Hardy was recently interviewed while playing with rescue dogs.
So, what’s going on with this study? Are all the men I’ve spoken to and discussed just not manly men? Possibly. Are there guys who withhold the love they feel toward their pets because they think it’s not manly enough and who escaped my purview? Sad as that sounds, probably.
But by and large, it seems that men love their animals, and they want everyone to know it. If that’s not manly, neither are we.