Friday, July 18, 2008

Animal Devotion

Popular wisdom says that if you’re looking for a mate here in the Big Apple, having a dog is a good way to attract one. Many stories have been written about the allure of canine-owning bachelors. Having experienced the more complicated aspects of doggy devotion, I’m probably one of the only single women here who would think twice before getting involved again with a guy in the throes of it.

For a year and a half, I dated Shawn—a man who preferred curling up with his two ginormous pets and was not bashful about saying so. Though the experience of having four-legged competition for someone’s affections was a first for me, a little research revealed I wasn’t alone. According to a 2006 LIFE/America Online poll, at least 30% of pet owners spend more time with their pet than with their spouse. A whopping seventy-eight percent of those pet owners said this pattern is true of their loyalties too. More recently, a 2007 American Kennel Club survey found that 15% of pet owners say their significant other has become jealous of their dog.

As my pet-related problems with Shawn reached a fever pitch, I recall him confiding in me about a nightmare that had left him visibly shaken because it was about losing someone he loved. I was moved by his vulnerability—until he added that his fears were about losing the dogs. I knew then that I would always be second fiddle to Fido, that he would be living happily ever after with his poochs and not me.

Ever since our relationship ended, I’ve noticed something about guys and their dogs. Tall men seem to favor small Chihuahua types, while their shorter counterparts tend to prefer larger breeds (my ex is about 5”7 and owns two 60-pound canines, an English Pointer and a Weimaraner). I was surprised, then, earlier this week when I looked up and spotted a tall, handsome man with an equally tall, handsome dog walking toward me.

His dog graciously served as the icebreaker, approaching me in search of a little stroking. I was more than happy to oblige, especially when I noticed the book his owner was carrying—Lauren Weisberger’s current bestseller, “Chasing Harry Winston.” Could it be? I wondered. A cute, single guy so evolved that he reads chick lit and isn’t ashamed to admit it?

“Good book?” I inquired, flashing him my best smile.

“Uh, I don’t know,” he answered sheepishly. “My girlfriend is reading it.”

I chuckled as I walked away. At least this time, barking up the wrong tree had made me laugh.

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