Find Your Tribe

Find Your Tribe
Finding new friends—and even romance!—at dog meetups


When Buffy Snider met Mike Caruso in 2008, “it was love at first sight,” she says. “We knew right away that we were meant for each other.”

On their second date, Buffy fell in love a second time—with Mike’s eight-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog, Milo. The couple, who married two years later, tried participating in the local dog club but, as it was focused on breeding and showing, found it didn't meet their needs. “I wanted to learn more,” says the instructional designer, “but we didn't show or breed, so there wasn't anything there for us. And they only had two events a year.” Hoping to find others who shared a love for the breed, they started the Colorado Bernese Mountain Dog Meetup in 2011.

Based in Littleton, Colorado, the group—which at 590 members, is the world’s largest Berner meetup—meets anywhere from three times a month to four times a weekend, all over the state, says Buffy.

“Milo [who has since passed] was a very important part of our family—we formed the group for him and revolved our life around him,” Buffy says. “And we found there were a lot of people like us out there.”

People like Alison Lee, who not only met a long-term boyfriend at a dog meetup—her rescue Chihuahua, Ethel, did too.

Alison started going to general dog meet ups in New York City “to socialize my dog” in 2008. At one of the first meetups that she and Ethel attended, “another little Chi came around and they started sniffing each other. Ethel didn’t snap at him, which I thought was amazing,” she said. The pair saw that same dog, named Sam, again at the next month’s meetup, at which time, the Chihuahua’s owner, David, came over to introduce himself.

“We hit it off,” Alison says. They went out for coffee immediately after that event. “Of course, it helped that our dogs liked each other too. “For the longest time, we jokingly credited the dogs for bringing us together.” Sam and Ethel remained inseparable until Ethel’s death in 2013. Soon after, Alison and her boyfriend split up, but Alison still thinks dog meetups are a great place to meet potential friends and romantic partners. “You automatically have a shared interest,” she says, “and I’ve always thought that dog people tend to be down-to-earth, relaxed.”

There are two main kinds of dog meetups—breed-specific meetups, like the one that Buffy and Mike formed, and non-breed-specific meetups like the one Alison attended, which welcome dogs of all shapes and sizes. When Ashlee Linton’s apricot Standard Poodle Nica was a puppy, she had just moved to Ottawa, Ontario. She found a non-breed-specific dog meetup that conveniently met at the farm that backed onto their property, where dog owners would meet daily after work.

Dog meetups were a way to both socialize Nica and for Ashlee to meet people. “I think it’s important for dogs to be around all types of breeds and people, and learn how to interact,” she says. As for the humans, Ashlee became closer with some friends “because of that shared activity,” she says.

Toronto, Ontario-based couple Cameron Thompson and Victoria Ferguson chose a breed-specific meetup, the Ridgeback Romps, for their three-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chuck. Through the group, the trio goes on hikes, spends time outdoors, and meets people with Ridgebacks who enjoy the same pastimes.

“The majority of people who own Ridgebacks enjoy the outdoors and trail run or mountain bike with their dogs, so we had a lot in common,” says Victoria. “Typically, when we meet up with other Ridgeback owners it is on the trails—somewhere the dogs can run off leash and get out their energy. We also mix up the trails we go to, so we have learned of whole new trail systems from other dog owners.”

The group stays in touch via email and Facebook. There’s often an instant connection with other dog owners, says Cameron. The couple recently moved, and they are already making friends with people they’ve met at their new dog park. “As soon as we saw our first Ridgeback at our new park, we got the owner’s phone number and we’ve gone out a few times since with the dogs,” he said.

“I definitely think there is potential to meet long-term friends through dogs,” says Victoria. “Once you meet someone on the trails or at the dog park, you already have dogs and the love for the outdoors in common.” 

The San Francisco Chihuahua Meetup has more than 1,800 members connected through their admiration of the diminutive breed, but often, organizer and founder Kate Singleton sees friendships extend beyond just dogs.

“People have become friends both within the group and outside,” says Singleton, who owns four Chihuahuas. These include people from different walks of life, who may not have met otherwise— “young adults to retired people, hipsters, families, artists, financial advisors, doctors, lawyers, high-tech workers, insurance brokers, customer service reps. We have people from lower income to the very wealthy.” These people come together not only to share playtime and snacks once a month, but to go to dinner, hold potlucks, parties and swap meets, and get involved with local rescue efforts.

“My first impression of dog meetups was that they were a mix of very friendly, compassionate, and knowledgeable people,” says Ottawa, Ontario resident Melinda Roy, who took her Pug, Pandy, to meetups hosted by the Under My Wing Pug rescue starting in 2011. “Some took a few more liberties dressing their Pugs in costume than I personally prefer, but everything was in good fun. There's something completely ridiculous and fun about being in a room full of Pugs. There's so much snorting! You can't look around without smiling.”

Under My Wing’s meetups include vendors, information, grooming services, and even professional portrait services. Dogs are allowed to roam off-leash and socialize freely.

Although Pandy passed away recently, Melinda continues to find commonalities and connections with other dog owners.

“We've met fellow Pug people who have also adopted from Under My Wing, and had great conversations talking about our experiences with the group,” she says.

Breed loyalty is real, says Buffy. She and Mike initially wanted a group where people could just have fun together with their Berners, but instead, found some true friends and great connections with other Bernese owners from all over the state. Whether they are hanging at the dog park, hiking, camping, taking train rides, fundraising, holding parties or enjoying lunch or beer on dog-friendly patios, group members always have a great time, she says.

Milo passed away three years ago but his legacy and the friendships live on. Buffy and Mike now have two more Berners, Little, and Mora. For Buffy, the group was not only fun, but life-changing. “When I met my now-husband and Milo, my life changed for the better,” she said. “Knowing that we have an amazing network of literally hundreds of people with the same love of Bernese Mountain Dogs is incredible. I know I'll have these friends forever.”

How to meet like-minded people who love canines as much as you do?
Are brief nods from others out walking their pups just not cutting it? Dog meetups are a great way to let your pup socialize while making new friends (and perhaps even getting a date!) in one fell swoop. allows you to search for what you’re interested in, whether it’s a specific breed or dogs in general, and choose a geographic area and a travel distance limit. Depending on your location, a quick search can yield dozens of groups which hold events that you can indicate interest in and choose to attend. No luck finding what you’re looking for? Form your own Meetup Group and watch the members roll in.

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