Monday, July 16, 2012

IS FIDO A LIABILITY?

A week and a half ago, the Vancouver Sun ran an article, “Wherefore art thou”, featuring local single women bemoaning the difficulty in finding a few good men.   I read with interest.  Even though I’d like to think there is a clear distinction between straight and gay men, I can commiserate with anyone over the apparent man shortage. 
Since I no longer have a daily subscription, I don’t know what followed in the letters to the editor section, but today’s inclusion from Kean Krytenberg of Burnaby caught my eye.  It appeared under the caption, “A dog isn’t a dating woman’s best friend”.
What?!  Blasphemy! 
It would be easy to dismiss Krytenberg.  Vancouver, like no other city where I’ve lived, has clear divisions:  East versus West, drivers versus cyclists, Starbucks versus everything else, dog lovers versus dog haters.  Oh, very few people dare come right out and say, “I hate dogs.”  No one wants his effigy burned during a lantern festival on Commercial Drive.  The Anti contingent usually confines canine conversation to specifics about owners who view the entire city as an off-leash playground, muzzle-free Chihuahuas and “My dog didn’t do it” clumps of doo.  All dog owners are lumped in with the not-insignificant band of rogue dog owners.
Anti letters are always followed with reactionary Pro letter writers who momentarily set aside Rex’s sticks and bones to toss some old-fashioned names.  Dog hater!  Human supremacist!  Cat lover!  Intolerant inflictor of your wishes on others!  I know where my sympathies lie, but I am also aware that nothing will sway a rigid Anti or a calm an it’s-always-about-me Pro.
Rather than take potshots at the letter writer, I pondered his message.  According to Krytenberg, single women get dogs as “a replacement for human males” which then “precludes these women from ever bonding with the real thing.”  Okay, that smacks of Anti extremism.  Dogs to replace men?!  We single folk know that dogs won’t sit for hours watching pro football and acting like they could do a better job in every position on the team.  We know you can’t dress a dog for long in socks and sandals before it tugs the fashion eyesore off.  And we know that dogs won’t ramble on about how many points they scored on the newest app on the latest and greatest tech toy.  Clearly, Krytenberg’s assertion requires no further response.
But then there are some specifics.  He cites dates in which women want him to come over early so they can walk Fido around the block before grabbing dinner.  (Could it be she wants more time with you?)  And then he bemoans the 11 p.m. curfew, for the next round of the never-ending game of Walk the Dog.  (Again, it sounds like she just invited you back to her place.  Do you really need another Bud at the bar?) 
Krytenberg sums things up as follows:  “[I]f you choose to bond with a dog because there is no emotional risk involved, do not be surprised if your pool of prospective mates is reduced to near zero.”
It is easy to get into Sic ‘Em mode against poor Krytenberg who may have just reduced his own dating pool.  I’ll leave the ladies to that.  (Hey, Antis, he’s all yours!)  But have I missed out on dating opportunities due to my own strong canine bond?
In a word, yes.  Undoubtedly. 
When I had two dogs, I’m sure it was even worse.  There are many single gay men in Vancouver still confined to condos in the West End.  While the area is loaded with dog walkers, many buildings prohibit pets.  I recall a date cut short with hugs on the street as my dog lounged in the car on a chilly February night, unable to come up for a home tour.  I could curse the condo bylaws, but I think the dog simply provided a welcome excuse for the man to call it a night.
Perhaps my photo of me and the dogs on Plenty of Fish deterred a few hunky AND brainy suitors, even the rumored-to-be-out-there Perfect Man.  (Yes, I believe in the Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster, too.)  The photo and the “Pets” line on the standard profile serve as a way for dog-hating date shoppers to weed out the ruff-raff.
More often, however, I think my dog tendencies have helped establish a superficial initial bond.  (After that, unfortunately, everything rests on the other guy and me.)  The first online dating message I ever sent was to a guy who had two miniature schnauzers.  Uncanny, I thought.  I have two miniature schnauzers!  Surely this is kismet.
Sadly, it wasn’t.  But it got this classic Wait-and-See guy to act.  That’s something.
My greatest “success” story from online dating was a nine-month relationship with a guy who messaged me after seeing my schnauzer shot.  Yes, he too had a schnauzer.  Tragically, it’s a long way from Vancouver to Toronto.
My most recent date was with a guy who clearly wasn’t a dog lover.  “I’m allergic,” he said.  It was hardly a tragedy of “Love Story” proportions.  I recovered quickly and I’m sure he did, too...after the recommended dosage of Benadryl. 
I’ve gone on dates where meeting the dog was the best part.  (I am realistic enough to know others felt the same on a date with me.)
Okay, Mr. Krytenberg, you made me think, but my beloved pooch is not a liability.  I just hope your letter doesn’t make a single woman Shepherd-shy.  Life doesn’t wait on hold while singles pine for partners.  Dogs don’t replace Mr. Right.  They do, however, for many of us, make life richer.  I can respect the fact a dog owner wants to and needs to exercise his/her pet.  I’d be more than happy to be invited along.

4 comments:

Rick Modien said...

RG, I read the letter from "The Vancouver Sun" you refer to in your post, and, while it made me smile, I have no doubt what the writer said is probably true, at least in some cases.

I hope no one is saying that single people shouldn't own pets, because they get in the way of meeting human beings and potential life partners.

On the other hand, I think it's difficult for some pet owners to open themselves up to other people–that is, to make other people the priority–when they're so emotionally connected to their pets.

I know someone who, for years, made her cats the priority in her life. She believed people could hurt and betray her, but her pets never would. That may well have been true, but I certainly think it also prevented her from meeting someone suitable. (Fortunately, that changed when she was in her late 40s, and she's now happily coupled with a man who's very good to and for her–and she still has one of her cats.)

Rural Gay said...

Your comment, Rick, reminds me of the movie "The Truth about Cats & Dogs". Janeane Garofalo plays a vet with a radio talk show and she advises one caller, "You can love your pets. Just don't LOVE your pets." There is a healthy connection with animals and then there's the jumping off point.

I'd like to believe I haven't crossed the line. Not yet!

Chuck Anziulewicz said...

I confess that I'm really more of a cat person than a dog person. Don't get me wrong, I like dogs and I like playing with them and walking them ... as long as they belong to someone else. My cat, BooBoo, has been my most constant companion for almost 19 years now. That's OLD for a cat. And I know it's going to be the most heartbreaking thing in the world for me when she finally reaches life's end.

Rural Gay said...

Hi Chuck,
Thanks for posting a comment! You are so lucky to have so much time with BooBoo (which, by the way, is a far better cat name than dog name. Can't see myself wandering the neighborhood, calling, "Here BooBoo!").

I'd like to think that, whatever the pet we have, a date would respect that connection. There should be room to grow to love a partner while also caring for a beloved pet. (Unless, of course, the pet is a boa constrictor that must be fed live rodents. Yech!)