By Zach Trowbridge, Organization Systems Administrator

As we come to the end of Pride Month, RedRover staff member Zach Trowbridge shares his experience as an LGBTQ+ person and the comfort and belonging he’s found with animals – and how the unconditional love of a pet can bring perspective during difficult times.

What is your first memory of connecting with animals? What role did pets play in your life growing up?

My first memory of pets was during my earliest childhood years when my parents raised pure Siberian huskies and malamutes. We lived in Southern Oregon and would frequently go as a family up into the snow with several adult huskies and malamutes, and puppies, to have fun playing in the snow with the dogs. I remember seeing my Dad open the back of our Suburban and watching this pack of dogs just launch out of the truck and sprint into the feet-deep snow and off into the woods where they would just disappear for 30-45 minutes until eventually coming back tired and clearly thrilled to be in their element. 

I remember just feeling like the dogs were this magical mysterious family I couldn’t understand and yet totally understood in a way, too. Being constantly surrounded by all these animals I really clearly remember how much of a family they were, how they were always together, all looking out for each other, all loving on each other and playing with each other constantly. It was like no one was ever an outcast in the pack. They were all always there for each other. 

In my childhood, I experienced the typical teen angst feelings of loneliness and I always admired how not only did the dogs always look like they were always there for each other, but I always felt like part of their family too.

Are there ways that your connection with pets has provided a sense of support or belonging in times when you experienced challenges, specifically around your experience as an LGBTQ+ person?

I can say without a doubt that there have been countless times I’ve experienced challenges and found support and belonging with my dog. I left a career because of discrimination I faced as an LGBTQ+ person in the job, and I couldn’t have survived that time of my life without my pup Azula being there for me. I couldn’t even begin to guess at the number of times I’ve faced some sense of being alone or discriminated against based on my being an LGBTQ+ person and found comfort in just getting some snuggles from my pupper. I also found a lot of comfort in fostering animals that were abandoned when I was feeling alone. It’s very fulfilling to be able to provide a sense of family and inclusion to abandoned animals, especially since I haven’t always felt a sense of inclusion in my communities.

Do you have any stories you’d like to share about how animals/pets have played a role in the LGBTQ community?

I think most especially animals play an extremely important role in the lives of young members of the LGBTQ+ community. When you’re young and feeling uncertain about lots of things in your life that our culture portrays in confusing or negative ways, sometimes you can feel really out of place and alone. I remember feeling grounded when I was snuggling a cat or dog. It has always felt good that they simply acknowledge me, I acknowledge them, and we just exist with each other in a comforting way. 

I think young LGBTQ+ people can have a hard time relating to people, so having a little fuzz ball to just hold feels comforting and also grounding. It sort of makes the big broad concepts that are confusing less important and puts a different perspective on life when you get to have a totally non-judgmental, loving, little friend to hold onto.