Looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? Your dog or cat can help
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Remember the meet-cute scene in “101 Dalmatians,” where the couple’s dogs bring them together? It happens in real life, too.
Molly McNamara of Lyons, Colorado, met her husband-to-be, Jeff McGlynn, at the obedience class she was attending with her dog. It was love at first sight — for her dog.
“My dog was so bananas for him that he wouldn’t pay attention after Jeff arrived,” she says. “At first I used to just get mad when he and his dog showed up because my well-behaved 1-year-old bearded collie, Max, would lose his mind and drag me across the room to see them. So, clearly, the dog knew first.”
It took six months before the pair started dating, with many of the dates involving taking their dogs hiking or to the beach. McNamara discovered later that McGlynn was staying in the class only to see her. His Saint Bernard was already well-behaved and didn’t really need the practice.
“Introduction by dog” is a time-honored method of finding true love, and now science has confirmed its efficacy. In their study “The Roles of Pet Dogs and Cats in Human Courtship and Dating,” published in the quarterly journal Anthrozoos, researchers — who surveyed more than 1,200 Match.com users — found that 35 percent of women and 26 percent of men said they had been more attracted to someone because he or she owned a pet.
Men are more likely to use a pet — generally a dog — as “date bait,” with 22 percent admitting to the tactic. Only 6 percent of women said they had used a pet to attract potential dates.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to rely on their dogs and cats as barometers of a date’s trustworthiness. Nearly half of the women responding said they judged dates based on how the person responded to their pet, and 76 percent evaluated dates based on whether their pets liked the person.
“My dogs have helped me see who is and isn’t a good match based on how the guys responded to the dogs, and vice versa,” says Elizabeth Barden Ackerman of Los Angeles. “The ones who are scared of my giant black Lab are quickly let go. The one who naturally pats and plays with him, refills his water bowl without being asked and who watches the dog and hilariously narrates his thoughts? He’s special.”
Allia Zobel Nolan of New York City knew the man she met was her true love because of the way he treated her cats, even though at heart he was a dog person.
“He loved me, so he loved my cats,” she says.
Gail Parker of Philadelphia stopped seeing one man after her dog, a German shepherd, growled at him. She gave another the heave-ho when he called her Irish setter stupid.
The study’s lead author, University of Nevada, Las Vegas anthropology professor Peter Gray, suggests that pets’ status as family members could explain the significant influence they wield in the choices people make about who they date. He and fellow researchers, UNLV graduate student Shelly Volsche; Justin Garcia of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University; and Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, say dog ownership may signal “a potential mate’s caregiving capacity.” How a person treats a pet could indicate how he or she would treat a mate and children.
McNamara and McGlynn? At their eventual wedding, more dogs than people were in attendance.
“Max is turning 14 in a month, and Jeff is still his most favorite human ever,” McNamara says.
PHOTO CAPTION: In a recent survey of singles with pets, 75 percent of women and 54 percent of men said they would not date someone who did not like pets.