Meet my friend Jacques Lamarre. At 50, he is married to the love of his life, Arthur Galinat, and the two are a busy duo.
Lamarre is director of client services at BuzzEngine Marketing & Events in West Hartford, the noted playwright of “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” and “Raging Skillet” at TheaterWorks, and the comedy writer for drag superstar Varla Jean Merman. Galinat is associate director of International Student and Scholar Services at the University of Connecticut.
Amid all that, they are “dog dads” to Spanky and “cat dads” to Miss Abigail Von Boom Boom LaFontaine. Lamarre also is a co-founder of the “Bark Twain Bash…It’s the Cat’s Meow” event at the Mark Twain House, which supports and recognizes animal advocates across the state. (The author of this article is the event’s other co-founder.)
So where did Lamarre’s love of animals begin? Not from his parents or siblings, he’s quick to note. He’s the fifth of 10 children – some born in Pennsylvania, others in Massachusetts, and one in New Hampshire.
“We did not have any pets growing up,” Lamarre says. “This was due largely to three things: 1) My parents already had 10 mouths to feed. 2) My parents don’t like animals. 3) My mom likes a clean house and a pet would have been one more thing to clean up after.”
For some reason, he says, he was the only one of his siblings who was desperate to have a pet. He begged and pleaded to have an animal of his own to love.
“I don’t know how I succeeded, but my mom took me to the pet store at the Nashua Mall [in New Hampshire],” he recalls. “This was back when you could buy puppies in a mall! Of course, we did not get a dog. We left with the cuddliest thing my mom would allow: a hermit crab.”
His first pet, Hermie the Hermit Crab, was a crustacean that wouldn’t come out of its shell. Within a week, it died. Admittedly, Lamarre was a big, sobbing mess: “You would have thought my grandmother had passed. Come to think of it, I think I cried more over that crab than when my grandmother actually died.”
After a few more crab failures, his mom allowed goldfish. His first pair were named after his dad’s secretary and her husband: Val and Bob. It was alternately hilarious and devastating when his parents discovered the secretary and her husband floating in their bowl.
Again, defying all acceptable behavior in their house, he was allowed to graduate to pet mice. This was particularly bizarre as it was the type of animal that you would normally catch and kill in your home. Jacques was assured that he had two male mice. In short order, that turned into about 15 mice, much to his mother’s horror.
His parents wouldn’t allow a cat or a dog. His mom would say, ‘When you get your own home, you can have a zoo!’
“When I got my first apartment, I bought a parakeet I named Mr. Oui Oui. He died pretty quickly,” Lamarre says. “Then I got a goldfish for my desk at work, named Mr. Crabs. He died. I don’t know why pet stores even sold me animals.”
Eventually, he adopted his first rescue cat, named Kitty Carlisle, after the legendary Broadway star and game show panelist – except his Kitty Carlisle was a boy. He later became dad to another cat, Knockers, before taking in Miss Abigail Von Boom Boom.
“On my first date with my future husband, Abbie jumped up on my shoulder to inspect him more closely,” he recalls. “Now she sits on his face when he tries to sleep. Miraculously, she is getting close to 21 years old.”
Galinat, for his part, grew up around dogs and when they moved in together, Lamarre saw a dog in his future. Cats allowed for a more flexible schedule, and Lamarre would never have been able to pull off a dog on his own.
It was love at first sight. “As one did for men at that time, I turned to Craigslist for a hookup, which is where I found my first dog, Dino,” Lamarre says. “Supposedly a yellow Lab-corgi mix, but he definitely had some pit bull in him. I adored this recently re-homed stray instantly and he made me laugh every day. We lost him last year to cancer and, for the first time, I was truly, truly heartbroken over the loss of a pet.”
The year after they got Dino, they rescued Spanky, a small puppy thought to be some sort of beagle mix, from the Sadie Mae Foundation. He’s now 85 pounds and thinks he’s a lap dog. Spanky is the sweetest thing imaginable, and it’s been a bit hard for the couple to watch him adjust to life without his adoptive brother. They’ve amped up the love and attention and he seems to be doing better.
Lamarre is known throughout Connecticut to be full of creative energy, a lover of the arts, and a big supporter of all things local – particularly when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community. Those who have a chance to see his work or be a part of his energy can feel his love of people and pets.
“I think being the only gay child out of 10 kids may have had something to do with being the only child who really wanted a pet,” Lamarre reflects. “I was maybe a bit more sensitive, maybe a bit more nurturing. I wasn’t interested in sports and wasn’t allowed or encouraged to do the types of things my sisters got to do. All I know is, that I loved animals then and I love them even more now.”