A study by the National Institutes of Health revealed that having a pet can help to diminish feelings of loneliness, particularly for women living alone, and compensate for the absence of human companionship. However, owning a pet doesn’t have to disallow meeting a human mate. In the British study cited above, 5 percent of dog owners have been on a date with someone they met walking their dog, with 1.5 percent still dating that person. I am in the U.S. and am amongst those who have been on a date with someone I met while walking my dog (while not being in the 1.5 percent still dating that person.) I have been known to fall in love with a Golden Retriever in a heartbeat, and it may have been possible that I confused who my attraction was for when I looked up at the other end of the leash.
Online dating continues to grow in popularity, and dating sites for pet owners is no exception. DateMyPet.com and PetPeopleMeet.com are two examples. On the latter, I read a success story from a woman who met her match when she fell in love with a man who also rescues dogs. Yet, once in a human relationship, people often state they crave the kind of unconditional love they receive from their pets. Can Pets Improve your Relationship?, an article by Dr. Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP, states that all the qualities we often want in our mate appear similar to those we experience with our pets. Her reports show that a person in a relationship often wants to be spoken to with the sameaffection shown to their pet.
Even though I’ve been single for over 15 years, I’m finding dating in middle age quite a bit different than in my younger years. While most people my age have a lot of baggage, I’m coming to realize that it’s not how much baggage someone has that affects a new relationship, it’s how the baggage is carried. Does it weigh them down and keep them in the past? Or is it light enough that they are able to be present in their lives?
I’m not a relationship expert, I’m a canine music expert and a concert pianist. But, I was sharing my above thoughts with my wonderful women’s group, dear friends that have known me for years. One asked what my baggage was, and I said, “my dogs.” Another disagreed, “Your dogs aren’t your baggage, they are part of your package. They would only be baggage to a man who didn’t accept them as part of you. But, the right man would freely welcome them and consider them to be a huge benefit to your relationship together.” It was an interesting perspective and after careful thought, I agreed.
My dogs are a huge priority in my life. Gone are the days when I would date someone allergic to dogs, or a man who treats dogs as animals that need to be subservient to his demands. My heart seems to only open up to men who really cherish the human animal bond. It’s a deal breaker when a man tells me that I should be comfortable treating my dogs one way, when I feel another. And, I’m not crazy about being teased because it’s hard for me to leave them when I go out of town. Don’t get me wrong, I take trips without Sanchez and Gina and leave them in very good care, but it’s still always hard for me to say good-bye, even if it’s only for a weekend.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, love is in the air, or at least Hallmark tells us it is. Even though I’ll be celebrating with my four-legged sweeties, there is always much to learn from them. And I’m sure they’ll remind me that the right man is capable of loving me and them, it’s not one or the other.