Date Like a Dog

When you think about dogs and dating, you probably think of phrases like “All men are dogs.” But I’m not about to bash men, or dogs. First off, why do we call bad behavior acting like a dog? This is as much of a misnomer as using “pussy” as a term for weakness, as in “Stop acting like a pussy.” Dogs are loyal, sweet and dependable. Which brings me to my revelation.

I was walking my sister’s pug, Loküm, on the beach in Connecticut over Thanksgiving weekend. While I was not a fan of the pug when my sister’s family first acquired him, he’s won me over. Despite the frequent farting and sporadic snoring, Loküm is adorable. Not just for his smushed-up face and pudgy pug figure, but, as my mom would say, his “dogality.” (“He’s not a person, so you really shouldn’t say a dog has a good personality — you should say he has a good dogality,” she used to say.)

Loküm is a very social dog. While walking him, I started thinking about how I could learn to date better from the way the dogs on the beach interact with each other. If only I dated like a dog, I wouldn’t be disappointed so often, or mad, or burnt out.

When two dogs approach each other, they make no bones about showing their obvious interest in each other. As soon as they get within close range, mutual butt sniffing will ensue.

Loküm either approached every dog we passed on the beach, or let every dog approach him. He did not avoid a single dog or get skittish when much larger breeds ran up to him and promptly stuck their snouts as close to his butt as possible. He always reciprocated another dog’s butt sniff with his own, unless the other dog ran away immediately after getting a whiff of Loküm.

When this did happen, did Loküm feel immediately rejected? And did he then internalize this rejection as a reflection on him? Was he too fat (he is overweight for a pug) or too wheezy? Should he stop sniffing other dogs all together or stop letting dogs sniff him, and just give up the fruitless butt-sniffing enterprise once and for all? Of course not! Only a person would react like that. When another dog ran away from Loküm, he kept merrily trotting along the beach, approaching the next dog he passed with the same gusto as he had before the previous dog had “rejected” him.

Loküm’s enthusiasm for each new dog was in no way diminished by his encounter with the last dog. He didn’t grow weary, or cautious, or embittered. (That dogs aren’t capable of embitterment makes them perhaps superior to humans.)

Then it hit me: Dogs enjoy checking each other out because they have no agenda. The agenda is what spoils the dating process. As much as we may want to meet that one special person and escape from the drain of dating, dating itself wouldn’t be so draining if we weren’t so focused on getting a specific outcome.

Searching for a partner can be far more daunting than searching for a job, but if we approached it less like a search for the one and more like a dog doing his daily sniffing, the sense of seriousness would fall away, and dating would be a walk in the park instead of a belly-crawl through the trenches.

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