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Dog lovers bark up right tree at pet-friendly dating sites

Romance unleashed: Finding love with a fellow dog owner

COUPLE’S BEST FRIEND: ‘Must love dogs’ is a trait some people look for in a partner.
By Vicki Salemi, Tribune News Service

When Karith Foster met her future husband, Craig Russell, in February 2011, it was love at first bark.

Pointing out it would have been an “absolute deal-breaker” if he didn’t like her chihuahua, Lealah, she said, “As soon as Craig walked in the door (on the first date), she wagged her tail, bowed down, then begged him to pet her. They bonded instantly.”

One marriage, two kids and the same chihuahua later, Foster recalls sparks flying immediately; he moved in with her after their second date, and they were engaged by June.

Romance had turned out just as planned for this Riverside, Calif., couple; they had each joined LeashesandLovers.com, an online social community for dog lovers, looking for a long-term, dog-friendly love connection. “The idea behind meeting somebody who had an animal or who at least had an affinity for animals was important,” Foster said.

Psychologist Seth Meyers, author of “Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve” (Adams Media), says doggy deal-breakers in dating are not uncommon.
“Simply put, dog lovers come only as a package deal: them and their dog,” he said.

Some guidelines for creating leash-inspired love connections:
Join a niche dating site. Laurie Davis, author of “Love at First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating” (Atria Books) and founder of eFlirt Expert, an online dating consulting firm, suggests registering on two dating sites: a niche site such as DateMyPet.com and a mainstream site like Match.com. “With a niche site, you may not find there are many matches, but quantity isn’t always that important,” she said. “You already know you have something in common. It’s easy to strike up a conversation.”

Join a local dog community.  Sarah Edwards launched social network MuttMate.com for dog owners to “arrange walks and meet up with locals” in “MuttClubs.” Passion for pooches is common ground for visitors who are making new contacts online by searching for breed and/or location to build a local doggy network. “I never set up MuttMate for this (finding love),” Edwards said, “but I realize that I’ve created something that could change people’s lives for the better.”

Whether you go to a pet park, attend a “bark in the park” ballgame, volunteer at your local animal shelter or bring your dog along to a pet store, Sheryl Matthys, founder of the LeashesandLovers website and author of “Leashes and Lovers: What Your Dog Can Teach You About Love, Life and Happiness”, encourages people to strike up a conversation. “Think, ‘I’m going to say hello to somebody today,’” Matthys said. “Even just smile. Be open to that.”

And while you’re at it, leverage your common interest. Open by complimenting someone’s dog and following up with a question: “What a lovely golden coat your dog has. Where do you get him groomed?”

“If you’re really looking to find love, your dog is really your wingpaw,” Matthys said.

Attend dog-friendly singles mixers.  Meyers says singles events are another way to meet people who value dogs but, he cautions, “Keep your expectations for meeting a potential partner in check.”

Do we have to add this? Yes, we do. Although it might sound enticing to break the ice via a dog, Meyers cautions against going to extremes by getting a pooch solely as a date magnet. “Pets require a lot of time, attention and money,” he said, “so be sure you get a pet for the right reasons.”

Photo courtesy Fotolia/TNS