Looking for unconditional love and someone that won’t nag you about taking out the trash or losing weight? Try sharing life with a lovable dog. But like any serious romance, if it’s going to succeed, think first of the big “C”: commitment.
Whether you’ve always been single or if you’re divorced or widowed, before taking on a pet, Betsy Rosenfeld, author of The Complete Single’s Guide to Being a Dog Owner suggests first asking yourself why you want a dog.
Compare your answer to the following:
A. Dogs are so cute, I’ve always wanted a (insert breed)
B. All my friends have dogs and I can’t wait to take mine everywhere.
C. I’ve been really stressed and I’m told a dog would be good for me.
D. I’m looking forward to caring for a dog and making it a part of my life.
Obviously, D is the “right” answer, but if your reply most resembles A or B, then the author states: “We may have a problem.”
This is the best book I’ve read to help single people deal with having a dog, although she surprised me a bit when she advised that working people “commit at least an hour a day to your four-footed friend.”
An hour? That sure doesn’t sound like much. But when she spreads it out with 15- to 30-minute intervals of quality pet time, my guess is that most pet owners don’t have much more time on their work days. Still, anything less is asking for trouble since a neglected pet can become destructive out of boredom.
But how can you leave a dog alone for at least 8 hours while you work? It’s not fair. Sure, Felix the cat can survive hours alone, thanks to litter boxes, but that doesn’t mean he likes it.
Nancy Scharfenaker of Denver, is newly divorced with a teenage daughter and a pair of cockatoos. “Right now it’s no problem,” said Scharfenaker, a grammar school teacher. She found a small house to rent with a fenced yard for the pooches. “Fortunately, my ex doesn’t care about them,” she volunteered. But what happens when she and Ana return to school in September? No problem.
She’s already found a neighbor who volunteers to let the dogs out in the middle of the day. “And we’re both home by 3:30 most days,” she adds. Theirs is a workable situation giving Buster and April much more than an hour of quality time.
If you don’t have that ideal neighbor, dog walkers seldom charge more than $15 per visit, usually lasting at least half an hour.
If you can afford it, a possible solution to keeping your dog happy while you’re nine-to-fiving is to opt for a second dog. They will still need to get out of the house, however. Most dog walkers give a price break for multiple dogs.
Please, No Pups
Please don’t get a puppy whether you’re single or not if you’re gone all day. The normal high-charged energy of a puppy requires more attention than a nine-to-fiver can give. Instead, adopt an adult dog or cat.
“An older dog is a mellow dog, especially for a first-time owner,” says Rosenfeld, who always recommends considering older dogs. Speaking of age, senior singles make perfect pet owners because they have more time to spend with pets.
Millions of dogs have found homes through Petfinder.com, the national site established by Betsy Saul in New Jersey 13 years ago. The website lists 250,000 dogs by breed, and by the zip code of the nearest shelter or rescue group. For mixed breeds, choose the most prevalent breed.
Earlier this year, Petfinder devised a segment that capitalizes on the craze for online mate-finding. The site lists compatible traits for human matches as well as pet matches.
Here’s a sample:
Human: Rock climber, runner, exercise enthusiast, road tripper, hardly ever home.
Best dog: Border collie, terrier, Labrador and German shepherd
Human: Happy-go-lucky, not overly concerned with appearances, doesn’t like rules and restrictions, chooses the road less traveled.
Best dog: Tough, low maintenance, resilient loyal dogs — airedale, fox terrier, Australian cattle dog, boxer, pug, beagle or mix thereof.
And what happens if you make a match and your date doesn’t like your dog or cat?
“Dump ’em,” Rosenfeld urges, referring to the date, most definitely NOT the pet.
Instead, strive for a relationship like that of Marcie Hall. Hall estimates that her 10-year-old adopted Maltese named Happy is only alone about eight hours a week.
“Between my boyfriend and me, Happy gets tons of attention,” says Hall, who is on disability with multiple sclerosis. When she goes out, she plops Happy in a tote bag specially designed for little doggies. “I take him everywhere.”