The story originally broke on March 17. Local CW affiliate WCCB’s Morgan Fogarty reported that Stanly County Animal Protective Services (SCAPS) had posted on their Facebook page a dog had been dropped off at their shelter because his previous owners had complained he was gay.
According to the report, they said he had been spotted mounting another male dog, which, in their minds, confirmed he was gay.
While same-sex activity and attraction occurs between animals of all species across the board, one dog mounting another is a common gesture of dominance and happens frequently.
Perhaps it was a slow news day or there just wasn’t going enough going on in the world, but the dog’s story exploded across media here in the United States and around the world in places like England, Japan, Ireland, Malta, India, Australia and others.
A local gay couple who met in Savannah, Georgia, and later moved to Charlotte in 2005 before making their home in Indian Trail, eventually came to the dog’s rescue.
Steve Nichols and John Winn saw stories about the dog – just like the rest of us – but made the quick decision to jump in and adopt the dog.
While volunteers at SCAPS had renamed the dog Fezco (after the “Euphoria” HBO television series character with the same name), Nichols and Winn decided to name the dog Oscar, after legendary gay poet, playwright and world traveler Oscar Wilde.
“We just thought it would make sense for a ‘gay dog’ to be adopted by a gay family,” Nichols chuckles.
The two men said their motivation to adopt the dog so quickly came from discrimination they had experienced in their own lives. “We’ve been subject to that kind of bigotry and ignorance throughout our lives,” Nichols explains. “And there were times when we couldn’t do anything about it. When we saw this we both looked at each other and said, “We should do something about this.”
Neglecting the dog because of its perceived sexual orientation wasn’t the only thing his former owners did wrong. According to Nichols, Oscar wasn’t in the best of condition, either. In addition to being dirty, ungroomed and desperately in need of nail maintenance, it appeared he had never been to a veterinarian.
“The volunteers at Stanly County did a great job taking care of him,” says Nichols. “We wanted to take him to a veterinarian to have him checked out just to make sure he was in good health and everything was okay.”
As it turns out, everything was not.
Oscar was examined by Dr. William Pressley of Pressley Animal Hospital, a local veterinarian who routinely partners with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Charlotte (SPCA).
The organization footed the bill for Oscar’s care, which includes treatment for heartworms. Now Oscar’s health has improved substantially and he’s adapting to life with his two new dads and other pets, including a Terrier-Chihuahua mix named Harry.
“Harry doesn’t believe he’s an animal. He thinks he’s a human,” Nichols laughs. “So I think he just sort of tolerates Oscar. He sees him as another pet.”
The attention generated by Oscar’s initial abandonment because of his perceived sexuality, and the resulting media frenzy that followed continued even after the two men had adopted the dog.
“It was pretty overwhelming,” Nichols recalls. “We were getting calls from around the world after going viral on the internet and social media.NBC News, TMZ, The Today Show, Good Morning America, USA Today, and a plethora of other media outlets barraged [the Charlotte] SPCA with requests to contact us. Our story was on countless talk shows that we never even saw, including Jimmy Kimmel. We discovered copies of the story on major websites like Huffington Post, Newsweek, [and] the NY Times.”
“In all the interviews we did, we were asked why we thought the story had exploded,” Nichols continues. “It seemed pretty obvious to us. After the last four or five years of craziness in our country, people are craving stories with real heroes and happy endings.”
Now, just over two months later, the hype has died down.
“It’s funny – I remember at one point John looked at me and said, ‘When is all of this going to end?’ I thought about it for a moment and said, ‘When the next big thing comes along the media can run with.’”
And that did happen. In front of millions of people around the globe on April 8, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on the Academy Awards for a perceived slight against his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Just as quickly as the attention had risen, it almost immediately disappeared, with television programs like “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” offering and then rescinding invitations to Oscar and his two dads.
“It just shows you what their motivation really is,” Nichols offers.
But the two men haven’t let their efforts come to a standstill just because the media packed up and went home. They’ve gone a step further to set up a website so that Oscar’s fans and friends can stay updated on his latest developments.
They posted the following statement: “Let’s be quick to point out that we are not the heroes in this story. The shelter employees, the volunteers and donors at the local SPCA, and the veterinarian who is working to restore Oscar to health and happiness – these people who deal with unwanted and abused animals every day – they are the heroes.”
Their efforts, they say, are all about educating the public on the importance of shelter adoption and the work done by the Charlotte SPCA, in the hopes that animal lovers will donate time or money to animal shelters and their local SPCA.
As for Oscar, his story continues to just get better.
“He’s doing well and his personality is starting to emerge,” Nichols explains. “He’s becoming more playful and he’s getting along well with Harry – they stay together constantly.”
For more details on Oscar and his new family, visit his website at www.oscarthegaydog.com