I can say from experience that single people looking for love spend significant amounts of time considering the traits that they would like to see in their ideal mate. Daydreaming, paired with the fact that I teach people about how to care for pets, made me realize that there is a lot in common between people that would be ideal to date and people that make great pet parents. For example:
Empathy. True love is based on a solid foundation of friendship and mutual respect. Loving another person or a pet means that you are able to put yourself in the shoes (or paws) of your loved one, understand their feelings, and at times are even willing to put their needs ahead of your own. It’s okay to be late to the impromptu happy hour because going home to walk your best friend takes priority. When this trait translates into romance, you’re happy to do things that make your partner happy––even if the activities aren’t your personal favorites.
Unconditional Love. Responsible pet parents adopt a furry friend for life. If he destroys your favorite pair of shoes and pees on the $500 rug, frustration doesn’t make real love go away. Human relationships require the same patience and understanding. Every lasting relationship requires work, and those willing to invest reap the best rewards.
Healthy Living. We all like to be around the person that is the life of the party, but at the end of the day, relationships last when they leave you with more than a hangover. True friends and responsible pet parents want to see their loved ones healthy and happy. A long reflective walk in the park with your special friend can be better than any crazy party. You and your pup may both want to scarf down cheeseburgers, but love means wanting to see the ones you care about live a long and happy life so cheers to the dating partners and pet parents that make healthy choices for their loved ones.
Values. Every person has different emotional needs––some require activity partners while others place a stronger value on affection and intimacy. Regardless of individual differences, meaningful bonds are built on priorities that have a little depth. A “neat freak” will ultimately accept that a little hair on your clothes isn’t a deal breaker when you live with a companion animal. In dating, you can learn to find someone’s quirks endearing because you are so smitten with the overall bond you share. If you want someone that values companionship over looks, look to someone that adopted a pet over someone that paid a breeder because they would spare no expense simply to have a pet that looked just so.
Non-Violent. When talking about healthy relationships, this trait should be priority number one. Violence is never okay. In relationships, everyone should value themselves enough to have zero tolerance for abuse. When it comes to pets, the same rule applies. Only use positive reinforcement (rewards for good behavior). That is the only training technique that actually develops the human-animal bond. Any form of punishment only teaches fear and punishment avoidance. It is much better to have a pet that looks to you with excitement and can’t wait to make you happy, than a pet that will do whatever it needs to in order to not get punished.
Since the traits for dating partners and pet parents are so similar perhaps there is a deeper correlation. If you’re single and looking for someone patient, compassionate, and open to giving unconditional love, visit a dog park, dog-friendly event (“Yappy Hours” are fun!), or go to events that support your local animal shelter as you’re likely to meet some eligible pet parents. Bear in mind that in order to receive love in a healthy relationship, you must be willing and able to give it as well. Consider adopting a pet to build your own skills of empathy and compassion.
Tatiana Garrett grew up with Borzoi, a rescued Standard Poodle, cats, hamsters, parrots, rabbits, guinea pigs, and an iguana… just to name a few pets. She began her professional career with animals in 1995 at Brookfield Zoo. She has studied wild dolphins in Australia and rescued wildlife in Florida, but people are truly at the heart of her work. If it walks, hops, or slithers, Tatiana cares about it. She currently oversees the Humane Education programs at The Anti-Cruelty Society and hosts “Chicago Tails“ on Watch312.com.