By Donalevan Maines
Photo by Curtis Reese
Fur flies when Michael Philome and Michael Pockuba disagree on the details of how they met, but there’s no question as to what great matchmakers their dogs are.
The three dogs’ wagging ways put to shame the skills of that famous matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi of Hello, Dolly! fame.
This self-described “furry family” lives in an apartment in southwest Houston.
“We met at a dog park in Miami,” says Pockuba. “I was walking Chase and Charlotte; Mike was walking Dutch. The dogs were playing—or fighting. Mike came up to me.”
No, no, says Philome. “I have no idea how he dreamed that one up.”
According to Philome, who claims to have a more detailed memory, their meeting was “kind of love at first sight” outside a South Beach restaurant in Miami. “I was walking by, and he smiled at me,” says Philome. “I made it a block before I came dashing back and simply said, ‘Hey I think you’re beautiful. I’d like to take you on a date. Trust me, you won’t regret it.’ He smiled again and said, ‘Why not!’”
Pockuba says, “Our first date, he made me a real picnic with a picnic basket and everything. I had no idea anyone did that anymore! We went to an outdoor theater, and he’d bought red wine and white wine because he didn’t know which I liked. I drank both of them; I didn’t know you don’t mix them.”
Feeling sick from being over-served, Pockuba passed out on Philome’s couch. When he awoke up the next morning, says Philome, “That’s when he met Dutch, my then-two-year-old pit/Lab mix. Dutch kept licking Mikey on the face. The two of them just took off like a rocket. Mikey spoiled him so much—all rules went out the window. They began to eat, sleep, and play together all the time. It made me love Mikey more, honestly.”
And that’s when Philome says he learned that Pockuba had a rat terrier named Chase back in Houston. “Mikey began to talk about his own dog who he left back home. There was so much sadness in his voice. So with other things weighing in, we decided that he had to go back to Houston,” says Philome.
The couple spent the next year or so flying back and forth to see one another—“long-distance stuff.” Pockuba also picked up another pet, says Philome, “another rat terrier with a missing tail who had been abandoned after delivering a litter. We both decided this misfit was our angel. Her name is Charlotte.”
In October 2014, Pockuba says, Philome and Dutch moved to Houston to join him and Chase and Charlotte. “They say the first year of marriage is the hardest,” says Philome. “Well, through ups and downs, we have weathered storms and become a family. Dutch is our guardian—so much so that if either of us raises our voice, he will immediately issue a reprimand. Chase and I bonded in our excessive vanity; we only clash on who gets to sit on a velvet upholstered chair affectionately known as ‘the throne.’ I am Charlotte’s bed, and her chair. She is so sweet and annoying; I love her for it.”
Philome, who graduated from college with a business and finance degree, runs a Creole catering company, while Pockuba is completing a communications degree at Texas Southern University.
“We now exist as an unruly group which, without warning, can burst into loud fits of play and howling, or pile under a single blanket [to spend] the whole weekend slumbering,” says Philome. “I had no idea that this would be my happy fate when I ran back to that man with that gorgeous grin. I had no clue he would be the key that delivered me from solitude and ushered me into what I now know as my furry family.”
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.