Dodging homophobia and paranoia to save a dog named Beyonce

I live with my husband Payne and our two dogs, Rocco and Sadie. Rocco turned 10 this year and we decided it might be a good time to add a puppy to the mix. To me the answer to most of life’s problems is “more dogs.”

I had read an article that said puppies help older dogs be more active, or I had a dream I read that article. Either way, my husband finally agreed “more dogs” was the answer so that’s all I needed to start the search.

We had adopted both our dogs from a pet finding site that many rescue groups post the dogs they have for adoption. I found a great option, a fawn terrier / pug mix named Beyoncé. I am not going to go into what I think of white people naming their pets after people of color (don’t do it), but sufficed to say I wanted to adopt and immediately rename Beyoncé. More importantly, I showed her to Payne and he wanted to adopt and rename her.

I applied for the dog and got a response in a day. Our application looks good so the next steps in the process are for us to go to the foster’s (the person taking care of the dog up for adoption) home to meet the dog then they would do a home visit and if both of those go well, we get the dog. Now each of these rescue groups has their own set of rules about how to qualify to adopt and I have heard horror stories of folks trying to get a pet and going through the process and then not getting the dog, often for arbitrary reason or no reason at all. Georgia is a right to deny puppy adoption state, apparently. With Rocco, we went to a pet store and Sadie was in a shelter but we found them on the same site and had no issues so I was optimistic that adopting “Beyoncé” would also go smoothly.

The foster contacted us and said that she would forgo the visit to her house, and she would come us to do the house visit and we set up a time and I was very happy, thinking that skipping a step meant this was a sure thing and I was already thinking of a more appropriate name for the puppy, like Susan or Hyacinth.

The foster showed up and brought Beyoncé into the house. Our living room is on the second floor of our house and I brought the foster up to the room and introduced her to my husband, Payne. I offered her a seat, she declined.  She let Beyoncé out of the pet carrier she was in and she socialized with our dogs and they got along great. I told her we have a fenced in back yard and offered to show it to her, she said she believed me. I thought that was a weird response since it was one of the questions on the application, do you have a fenced in backyard. After about five minutes of the very stilted small talk, I asked if we could have the night to decide and come and get the puppy the next day. She said that would be fine and I walked her out to her car.

I asked for the extra night to decide to verify we have someone to watch the puppy the upcoming weekend, because we were going out of town for a comedy show. After making sure we had it covered, I called her to tell her we would love to pick up the dog that night. She told me she had a meeting and asked if she could call me back in an hour.  A few hours go by and I hear from her and this is when she tells me she has set up other visits with “Beyoncé” because she thought she should go to a “family with children” and that if none of those people want her, then we could set up a time to come get the dog.  I was surprised at the about face I was experiencing, yesterday they were ready to give us the dog and now it needs to go to a “family with children”

And that phrase is just ringing in my mind; family with children. Is that code for straight people?  Is that why she wouldn’t take a seat when I offered her one or check out the back yard or why the whole visit lasted 5 minutes? Holy shit? When I introduced Payne as my husband, was that when she realized? What year is this?

I emailed the general email of the rescue group and detail the visit and I ask them to tell me what happened.  

The response was immediate and very apologetic and on a call excuses were offered. The foster was a woman new to the organization, could be standoffish and this was her first home visit.  I eventually talk to the foster and she apologizes that I felt that way but assured me she has gays friends. I just want the dog at this point so I don’t fact check any receipts on her gay friends but boy do I want to to just that.

So all that I perceived as her being uncomfortable with us was her uncomfortable because this was her first house visit. All the perceived homophobia explained away as first day jitters.  The thought that these straight people are just gas lighting me crosses my mind but I just want that dog, so I just listen and try to believe. The fact she wanted to give my dog to a family with children keeps crossing my mind but I say nothing, because I want that dog.

We end up picking up the dog from her tasteful home and there she is comfortable, there she is gracious. As we drive off, we decide to name the new puppy Joan, after Joan Rivers because like Joan, I tend to shoot my mouth off and get myself in trouble but sometimes I’m the only one speaking out and end up changing things. As to whether we almost lost this dog to homophobia or miscommunication, I want to believe it was just a miscommunication but had I not questioned what happened, I would not be here watching Joan Rivers chew on my husband’s shoes. JOAN! Stop that!

Ian Aber is a comedian and writer out of Atlanta and show runner of sweetbabycheeses: A Grilled Cheese & Stand Up Comedy Buffet. The next show at Relapse Theatre takes place December 29, 8 p.m.

Photo by Joeff Davis courtesy Ian Aber.

A version of this article originally ran in Q magazine. Read the full issue below: