The guidance given to men seeking a lasting, caring relationship with another man often is to look for a man with a dog. If the man you are considering to do more than just hook up with briefly and casually owns a dog, he is likely to be a patient, caring, unselfish, loyal person, all good ingredients for a serious long-term relationship. He pretty much would have to be to have and care for a dog. Of course a corollary of this guidance is to look for the type of dog he has. If the man has a pit bull, you’d best be shopping for someone who is dominant and forceful; if a Pekinese, you probably should expect to find a sub—and perhaps a somewhat temperamental one.
Among the stories in Eleven to the Dogs, you will find stories illustrating just such finds in establishing relationships.
As the guidance is well known, though, you also will find stories here of men who don’t actually own dogs pretending they do as a subterfuge for finding the man they want—one looking for men with the patience, unselfishness, and loyalty to own a dog. And gay or not, as these stories illustrate, there is no relationship as strong as that between a man and his dog.
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From the short story “Der Hund”
He could hear the Germans talking, and he knew enough of their lingo to know they’d seen the dog. He waited, in fear, listening for the shots that would indicate that the Germans would use the dog for target practice. But then he breathed easier when he didn’t hear that, but, instead, heard them calling out to the dog, whistling for it, and speaking in tones of encouragement.
He couldn’t let the dog return to the Germans. His goal had been to be nice to the dog to get into James’ pants. But now he knew he cared for the dog too. He reached for his ration box and took out a hunk of what they had been told was meat. He took the chance of raising his head to where he could see the dog and extended his arm, his hand holding the hunk of meat, over the rim. He whistled for the dog too and added his voice of encouragement to that of the German soldiers’. Any second now he knew he’d feel a bullet—not hear it but feel it hit him. Or he’d see the dog trot back to the side she’d started on. Barnes knew that would break James’ heart.
But no bullets came, and the Germans stopped calling for the dog. The dog turned its muzzle toward him and saw the meat. She moved a yard closer to him, but then stopped, in confusion, immobilized by fear.
“Es ist meine Hund,” Barnes called out. “Es ist ängstlich. Es ist nur meine Hund.” He hoped he wasn’t speaking German so badly that he wouldn’t be understand. He had tried to convey that it was his dog, that it was scared, and that it only was a dog. He knew it was a risk. If the dog was identified as a British soldier’s pet, there was every chance that would initiate the target practice that hadn’t happened before. But the spattering of German he heard from across the space between the trenches didn’t sound belligerent. And they had stopped whistling for the dog when he had started. And no one had tried to shoot off the hand he had extended over the rim of the trench.
James had crawled back. “What are you doing? Is she out there? You can’t expose yourself like that.”
“Do you have anything that’s white that you can lift on your bayonet?” Barnes asked, ignoring the torrent of concerned words James had unleashed.
James pulled out a handkerchief that had been white as recently as two weeks earlier and, his motions showing he was almost numb with fear and concern, stuck it on the bayonet, and raised his rifle over the rim of the trench.
“Ich komme für der Hund. Nur für der Hund,” Barnes called out, trying to let them know that he was coming out of the trench only to retrieve the dog, nothing more. Then, with a gulp and a deep sigh—and shaking off the hand that James tried to restrain him with, he hauled himself up onto the rim of the trench.
“Come, girl, come to me,” he whispered in a shaky voice. “Nice meat. I have this nice meat for you. You come to me and I’ll share my meals with you, fifty-fifty. You want to see James again, don’t you?”
Slowly the dog inched toward him on her haunches. Her whole body was shuddering, but her eyes were on the piece of meat.
The whole world went silent in Barnes’ head. He was waiting to hear or feel the shot, but there was nothing, not even birds singing. The whole world was silent, holding its breath.
When the dog had come close enough, Barnes grabbed her and pulled her quickly down into the trench with him. As he descended, he felt his bladder give way. He was peeing his pants. But he didn’t care. He felt like crying out for joy—the joy of still being alive—and he was noisily gulping in great drafts of air.
He still was listening for the shots, but instead of that he heard clapping and cheering floating over from the German trench—and down the line of the British trench too, where, unbeknownst to him, British soldiers scattered down the line, more thinly scattered than they wanted the Germans to know, had been watching the little drama and were cheering and clapping as well.
He was clutching the dog to his chest, but he felt a weight pushing him down to the ground, covering him, and James’ lips on his