Dogs: The Un-Tapped Dating Service

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Dogs: The Un-Tapped Dating Service
Love Unleashed: Singles need not wait for the year of the dog

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LIKE MANY SINGLES, YOU CAN’T STAND THE BAR SCENE, FEEL awkward making small talk at parties—and if your parents try to set you up with one more aesthetically-challenged loser, you’re going to put yourself up for adoption. Does this mean you’re doomed to remain perpetually single, forever adrift in a sea of smug marrieds and other annoyingly happy snugglers? Not if you enlist the help of that four-legged canine cupid bouncing around your feet. That’s right: your dog, in addition to being your very best friend, may also be your best asset on the “ruff” and rocky road to romance.

But, you say, you already know the humans at the local dog park, and while you’ve finally managed to remember some of their names (not just their dogs’ names) and have even set up some doggie play dates, not a person among them is anyone youwould date. The last person you were with couldn’t deal with dog hair on the furniture or your pup’s cold nose thrust under the covers to remind everyone that it was time for his 6:00 A.M. walk. You’ve realized that if someone’s not a dog person, they are simply not romantic material. Never fear: creative singles services and modern technology are making it possible for you to meet other dog lovers outside the scope of your daily neighbourhood jaunts.

Now, unless you’ve been living in a Nepalese nunnery, you are probably already aware of the proliferation of dating services accessible by telephone, on the internet, and through various print media. What you may not know is that there are a growing number of organizations and companies specifically devoted to connecting single dog lovers with like-minded individuals who are just as pooch-crazy as you are. This immediately gives you something in common with everyone else using the service, and it also allows you to make the most of that wonderfully effective ice breaker—your dog. After all, most dog lovers think nothing of approaching and talking to a total stranger, provided that person is holding the leash of a friendly-looking dog. It is just this type of easy, natural interaction that makes singles services for dog lovers such a great way to meet new people. Even if the initial contact is online or otherwise sanslive canine, you still have an instant, mutually engaging, and virtually inexhaustible topic of conversation—dogs!

Michelle Kennedy, co-founder of Leashes and Lovers, a New York company that organizes singles mixers for dog devotees, knows first-hand about finding romance on the end of a leash. Rollerblading in Central Park one day, she came across a man walking a Golden Retriever puppy. “I saw the adorable dog first,” she says, “and as I usually do, I went straight to the dog to pet her, not even noticing the blond, blue-eyed man at the other end of the leash.” Once she recovered from the irresistible force of nature that is puppy cuteness, Michelle finally noticed the cute guy standing patiently nearby. The rest, as they say, is history; September 29 marked Michelle and Kevin’s third wedding anniversary. “If it wasn’t for the dog, it would never have happened,” Michelle reflects. “She was a great icebreaker for me to meet and get to know Kevin, a man I otherwise would not have talked to.”

A mutual love of dogs also brought Michelle together with her Leashes and Lovers co-founder and partner, Sheryl Matthys. The two women met through the online business networking group Ryze.com, which posts photos of its members. “She saw my picture with my Greyhounds,” says Sheryl, “and she wrote me and mentioned her love of animals.”

Though Ryze has members all over the world, Michelle and Sheryl soon discovered that they lived only ten minutes apart and decided to meet for coffee. “We met one morning at ten, and by seven that evening we had come up with the whole concept of Leashes and Lovers,” recalls Sheryl.

When asked to explain what Leashes and Lovers does, Michelle says, “Leashes and Lovers is where dog lovers meet. We organize and host events for single dog lovers—those who are dog guardians and even those who don’t have dogs but just love them.” Sheryl adds, “We stress dog lover as opposed to owner as we know many people in NYC aren’t allowed to have dogs.” Leashes and Lovers events are held in swanky New York City lounges and posh outdoor locations such as The Hamptons, most of which are dog-friendly. In cases where the locations don’t allow dogs, people are asked to bring pictures of the important pooches in their lives. Part of the proceeds from each event goes to help a local animal organization in need.

Some of the more hip and innovative dog supply stores also host social events for dogs and their owners. One such store is Fetch in Vancouver, which holds its popular “Yappy Hour” events every few months. Though not specifically singles events, owner Kelly Josling says that most of the Yappy Hour attendees are younger people—and flirting definitely does occur. “It’s a lot of fun,” says Kelly. “We have wine for the people and appetizers for the dogs, and it gives people a place they can go besides the dog park to meet other dog lovers and talk about their dogs. There still aren’t many places where you can do that.”

If there are no Leashes and Lovers- or Fetch-style events where you live, you might find the internet a viable alternative. Some generalized dating sites such as http://www.Match.com allow you to find other dog lovers by including certain keywords in search criteria, whereas other sites are specifically designed for people who keep dogs or other pets.

One of the most popular of the latter kind is www.AnimalPeople.com, which allows members to search for suitable matches based on a variety of criteria including location, age, appearance and religion—but also (and most importantly) by what kinds of pets they have. An exclusively dog-oriented site is www.LoveUnleashed.com, which gives you the opportunity to search for romance or friendship, and also has online articles, a “flea market” where you can buy or sell dog-related items, a K9 forum with numerous discussion categories such as training and health advice, and a variety of other useful features.

Another great site is www.DateMyPet.com, which allows you to search for dates for yourself or your pet. Though some might find the idea of pet dating a little wacky, it does make sense from a singles point of view. A person seeking to find a suitable playmate for a diminutive Chihuahua versus a rough-and-tumble Malamute might very well discover that the kind of person who would own a similar type of dog has a good chance of having a lifestyle compatible with their own. DateMyPet.com also has a number of fun features such as “cutie ratings” for pet photos, as well as listings of upcoming events geared toward singles and pet lovers in various areas. There are many other such sites, including http://www.KissyKat.com (which is not just for cat people), www.SinglesWithPets.com, and soon-to-be-up-and-running www.DoggieDating.com

If cyberdating isn’t quite your style, you might feel more comfortable searching for pearls of dog-related romantic wisdom in Deborah Wood’s witty and very practical book, The Dog Lover’s Guide to Dating: Using Cold Noses to Find Warm Hearts. As the dust jacket states, “Dog trainer Deb Wood offers encouragement and inspiration to the romantically challenged dog lover, providing a list of the best and worst date breeds and activities you can do with a dog to meet new friends. You'll see how to find the hot spots where single dog lovers congregate; break the ice with conversation starters that are perfect for dog lovers; train your dog to fetch a date; write a canine-friendly personal ad; ensure that your dog and your new love get along; spot dog owners who should be avoided; and use your dog to prolong a date—or end it!”

Though the book shows how useful a dog can be in the romance department, Wood emphasizes that you shouldn’t get a dog just because you want a date, pointing out that there are cheaper ways to achieve that goal. “In the book I mention a number of things that are less expensive than owning a dog for fourteen years, such as going to Harvard for eight months, getting a Tiffany diamond necklace for a woman, getting a Rolex watch for a man, renting a yacht and having a big party, or having plastic surgery,” she says. Wood explains that if you’re not a true dog lover, having a dog likely won’t do much for your dating life anyway. “What really attracts people is the love,” she believes. “It’s a chance for people to see a side of you that they don’t get to see otherwise in the kind of world we live in. Your dog allows you to express your emotions, and show tenderness and playfulness.” If you area real dog lover, Wood has many great ideas and thoughts on how your dog can enhance (or possibly dampen) your dating potential. For example, she explains how your dog’s breed can affect your chances. “I’ve listed the ten best and the five worst ‘date bait’ breeds. This isn’t saying these dogs are good or bad—it’s simply people’s perceptions of the breeds.” Wood says that the number one dog for meeting people is the Golden Retriever. “Everybody loves a Golden Retriever because they’re soft, friendly and not scary. If you have a Golden, people will stop and pet your dog. On the other extreme, if you have a Pit Bull, there are certain people who will cross the street because they’re scared of your dog, even if your dog is very nice.” 

That’s why Wood has included a chapter on things you can do if you have a dog that isn’t naturally inviting. Says Wood, “If you have a scary-looking dog, putting a bandana or a bow tie around his neck, or teaching him to carry a rose and give it to someone, is a great idea. There are things you can do to make a little dog cool, too. You want to have a little dog that is well socialized and friendly—not an armpit piranha.” Wood also includes fun training tips that can help you get someone’s attention. “If you have a shy dog,” she says, “you can teach the dog to wave at someone from a distance, or if you have a herding dog, teach it to round up a certain person for you. After all, if a Border Collie can get one sheep out of a hundred and bring it back to you, why not teach it to cut one guy out of the ‘herd’ and bring himto you?”

Asked if she believes dog lovers possess certain qualities that make them good potential partners, Wood replies without hesitation. “Absolutely. A person who is a truly good dog owner is a reliable, kind, responsible person. A good dog owner puts the interests of the dog first, which means this is someone who is able to look beyond their own selfish needs to meet the needs of others. They likely have a more stable lifestyle as well.” Michelle Kennedy of Leashes and Lovers couldn’t agree more. “I think dog lovers are great people and do make wonderful potential partners in love,” she says. “Most people who love dogs are nicer, friendlier, and more easy-going and open in general than the average person. There are, of course, the dog lovers who are high-maintenance as well, but you can usually spot them by their dogs... I won’t say more! Dog lovers overall understand the concepts of commitment, patience, generosity, joy and love. Dog lovers are sexy!”

Dog lovers are indeed sexy, and as our adoring canine companions tell us every day, eminently lovable. If we can all remember that about ourselves, we will become even more attractive to others while following that wagging tail on a walk down lover’s lane.




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