Single, dogs welcome, parents need not apply
Part 1 of 2: Two dog caregivers discuss single life, marriage and parenthood
Poet Maya Angelou has a wise quote: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” But if we all took that piece of advice when looking at someone’s online dating profile, would we ever meet them in person? People change as they get older, the longer they are in relationships, as jobs change and other life events happen.
Sometimes when people show you who they are and how they want to live their lives in the future, believing them the first time could be a great dating filter. Or, it could be the reason to swipe left on someone who would’ve normally been a swipe to the right.
In this two-part series, dog trainer Sheryl Matthys (founder of FetchaDate) and dog walker Shamontiel L. Vaughn discuss online dating, singles, and the highs and lows of wanting pets more than wanting kids.
Shamontiel L. Vaughn: I had a dream last night about a guy I went to high school with. He was handsome, really nice, always polite and fun to be around. He actually taught me how to parallel park in driver’s ed. I will forever be grateful for that. But I always hesitated to date him, no matter how many times he flirted with me, because I kept thinking he was the kind of guy who would want kids and marriage. I knew that I never wanted kids, so I always dated the guy who was unsafe. Did you run into that a lot while working on your book “Leashes and Lovers”?
Sheryl Matthys: Oh, yeah. When I’d interview single, dog-loving women, they would wonder, “Why am I attracted to the bad boy?” I think they fear a bit of the safe route — they get a house, he goes to his job and she pushes out a few kids. They wonder, “Will it be boring?” Often when people have pets, especially dogs, it’s because they want to live a life of adventure and be social.
Sheryl: Some of its subconscious and has been around culturally for a long time — for women, in the end, “Who are we unless we have kids?”
Shamontiel: That’s exactly where the anomaly comes in. I started dating around the age of 16. By my late 20s, early 30s, I’d dated pretty much everybody.
I have never met, in my entire life, an African-American man who didn’t want kids. I have been in situations where they may have not wanted more children, but never not wanted children period. And I can say that as recently as last year, I met a guy who I thought was delightful. We got along well. I thought he was cute. And I knew he was getting ready to ask me out. But as soon as he said he was a grandfather — even though we were the same age, in our late 30s — I didn’t feel right. If I didn’t want kids, I definitely don’t want grandkids. A dog? Yes. Kids? No. Did you run into a lot of men who didn’t want children?
Sheryl: I wouldn’t say a lot. I’d say most would feel reluctant to say that even if they didn’t want kids. And most people end up having kids. I don’t know if I should say they always planned on them, but they may feel the pressure from society to have kids. I hope FetchaDate helps to fill that void of people who believe, “Dogs or pets are enough for me. I want to do things and go places without feeling the pressure of having human kids.”
Shamontiel: It’s interesting that you brought up FetchaDate because when I was writing over 60 online dating reviews for a particular client, I was looking for sites like yours — for people who were into pets. If you don’t like dogs, that’s a deal-breaker for me. We will not last, and I don’t even own a dog right now. But I’ve had dogs for 22 years. And I’m a dog caregiver and dog walker now, so if you don’t like dogs we pretty much could never live together. That’s part of my life.
I found that sites for pet dating apps, and sites for dog lovers, were as rare as those for people who didn’t want kids. Online dating sites would ask, “Do you have kids?” Then it might ask, “Do you want kids?” But then when it came to pets, just, “Do you have a pet?” That was the extent of it. They didn’t go in-depth. And that’s why I’m so excited about your app.
Sheryl: I’m glad you’re bringing this up. When developing my pet-dating app, I had to limit the number of questions in order to launch. I had more in-depth questions: Do you have kids? Do you want kids? How many kids do you have? Are they grown? Are they at home with you?
I think pet people would like to know that as well. “Should we even start off chatting?” It’s another dynamic that brings more drama and factors into it.
Shamontiel: I think people assume that if you don’t want kids, you somehow don’t like kids. Or, people assume if you don’t want pets, you don’t like pets. This is when I understand people who don’t really care for pets. One does not equal the other.
My mother teases me all the time. If I see a leash or I see a dog, I’m breaking my neck to see the breed, the color, the fur, how cute it is. I want to be around that dog as soon as possible. I can’t count the amount of random dogs who have jumped up on me or who I’ve petted even if I never knew them before. But when I see a stroller or I’m at kids’ birthday parties, I’m thinking, “How can I get the hell out of here?”
Shamontiel: However, I don’t not like kids. When my nephews were born, I wanted to babysit them all the time. When my childhood friend had a child, I was there I was in the hospital as she gave birth. We’re not in touch now, but when we were, I’d travel out of the state to hang out with her and my then-godson. And whether I see my nephews one time a year or — now COVID-19 threw a monkey wrench in that —even in their early 20s, I still look at them as those super cute little boys that I carried around and hugged and love. I remember taking them out to dinner, movies and them spending the night on my birthday. I saw my godson in his 20s and same deal. He’s grown up to be just as handsome. But I haven’t figured out why I don’t have these cutesy thoughts about other people’s kids. There are five people who I watched as babies who I still have those fuzzy feelings about, and that’s where it ends.
Sheryl: Oh, I get it. Even we parents, including me, will joke with one another that we love our own kids, but that doesn’t mean we’re crazy about other people’s kids!
Shamontiel: I had a co-worker who would say that! A friend of mine told me, “I just like my daughter. That’s it.” He had two dogs who he traveled across the country with, too.
Sheryl: I’m glad you brought this up. People who love pets are very humanistic people, right? We care about people yet desire the closeness of our own pack. Our pets are family. Think about the dynamic. A pet is usually snuggly and warm. They’re sleeping in your bed with you half the time. They don’t talk back. You teach them fun tricks. You can just enjoy them.
Recommended Read: “Sleeping with dogs and bed hogs ~ When you finally give up on sleeping alone”
There are more layers when you have a child. If they’re screaming and running around, somehow you can tune them out or they seem more tolerable when they’re your own children. But it’s harder with kids you don’t know. Those same behaviors can be annoying. As pet people, and especially dog lovers, we desire connections that don’t seem as demanding. We want that feeling of them always next to us, holding and petting them — and they don’t leave. Mentally, dogs help us.
Shamontiel: Therapy dogs are amazing for mental health. I work with stroke survivors who are dealing with the after-effects of having strokes, and they’re at various stages. I get to the stroke survival meetings, and then a therapy dog comes in. You can see the worry leave the faces of some of these people, especially stroke survivors who are dog lovers. You can see worries temporarily erase from their faces, just from this four-legged being walking in a room.
Sheryl: Yeah. When you have a dog with you, and it doesn’t matter if it’s your dog or other people’s dogs, if you’re a pet lover, it seems to bring about calmness, serenity, happiness, joy. With human relationships, there are more layers. Young kids may be running and screaming, which could unleash stress and anxiety, leaving you feeling like you’re not in control. I can understand why childless people may just want to have a pet with them. Or, other people’s pets, or be at the dog park and hang out. Popping in a daycare can be overwhelming.
Shamontiel: Speaking of daycare, I once took a mini Schnauzer to a doggy daycare. There were dogs that were like 20 times his size. I didn’t want to leave the doggy daycare. There was that ridiculous moment when I felt like a parent who doesn’t want to leave her kid in a nursery school. This mini Schnauzer was just so small. I thought these dogs were gonna stomp him out. He ended up being the bossiest one in the bunch! He was fine. I finally left.
Sheryl: Doggy daycares are fine. I meant human daycare.
Shamontiel: Humans? I care. Human daycares scare me more than mice! I’m 39. There’s nothing you’re going to do to make me magically become a baby person. I’m just not. I will forever love my nephews and godson. I have a cousin who I hadn’t seen in years. I saw her in her late 20s and asked if she remembered me. She hugged me and said, “Yeah, you were the girl with all the Barbies.” I was so proud that she remembered me as a cool babysitter with all the Barbies.
But dating is a challenge. The last guy I dated didn’t want kids. Then he woke up on a day that ends in “y” and changed his mind. He decided he wanted a kid like his nephew and not-so-subtly dropped a hint or two. You have to wonder, “If I told you I didn’t want kids from the very beginning, what makes you think I’m going to magically want kids?” It makes me sympathize with people who say, “I don’t like dogs or I don’t like pets.” Then they end up with people who are crazy about animals. You cannot make them suddenly change their minds.
Sheryl: I do think people can change — if it’s of their own accord and not forced. For many years, I thought I didn’t want children. If I went to a restaurant — and I honestly did this — I would say to the hostess, “Seat us as far away from any children.”
Sheryl: Sometimes they’d take me to a table, and I’d say, “That’s still too close.” Like you, I enjoyed my nieces and nephews but also had no desire to have children. Neither did my husband. Neither of us was pressuring the other. But as each year went on, we revisited the topic, “Should we have kids? Nah, let’s talk about it next year.”
Shamontiel: Okay, so I’m going back to revisiting my original question. One day you just decided you did want kids and you love being a mom. And your husband was the last person to ever want pets. He ended up with a dog trainer, and you all have two kids and three dogs. Talk about a change of heart. Do you think it’s worth it to be on these online dating sites and hope that eventually people will come around to changing their minds, too? If they’re on an app like yours and declaring, “Pets only,” what are the odds that they’ll change their minds about kids and pets the same way you two did?
Check out Part 2 to find out Sheryl’s answer on motherhood, marriage and dogs, and more from these two dog caregivers on pet-loving singles in an online dating world. Sign up for her mobile pet dating app FetchaDate here in the meantime.