Jonathan Van Ness reveals harsh realities of dog adoption
Pet adoption and fostering animals proved to be a saving grace for many Americans experiencing isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges once a new furry family member crosses the threshold.
“When I adopted a dog, I just didn’t know what to expect,” the 33-year-old reality star told TODAY over Zoom from New York City. “I went to a shelter that had COVID protocols that felt really good and then I just fell (crazy) in love with Pablo, but I just didn’t know a lot of what goes into dog behavior or being a dog parent.”
Van Ness rose to fame with his star turn on the 2018 Netflix reboot of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” The beauty guru quickly became a fan favorite for his lovable personality as well as his optimistic social media presence that often includes his cats Harry Larry, Matilda, Liza and Genevieve — so he’s had experience with pet adoption before. (Van Ness identifies as gender nonbinary but his preferred pronouns are he/him/his.)
Genevieve and Matilda joined the family last year as kittens after his cat Bug the Second had a tragic fall from a window and died. “Of all the things I’ve been through, if you read my book, losing Bug the Second was like… I mean, I’m gripping my arm now just talking about it,” Van Ness said. “It was so sad that I impulse-adopted two kittens literally the same day because I was so unhinged with grief. I never thought this could happen. I never thought it would happen.”
Despite some of his cats having health issues in the past, Van Ness says that he was unprepared for Pablo. “A lot of dogs are that romanticized version of what you think adopting is,” he said. “Like no issues. I think that’s probably a lot of the time what does happen and for the first couple weeks, that was our experience. But then Pablo… with four cats, just started to see some things start to happen.”
Van Ness said that Pablo soon became extremely possessive of him as well as of the couch, treats and toys, even if the toys first belonged to his cats. Known as resource guarding, this occurs when dogs exhibit behaviors like growling, lunging or biting over food or toys, according to the American Kennel Group. It is also known as “possessive aggression” and may occur in dogs of any breed.