I can't tell you the number of times I've heard women say, "Men are dogs." Since joining the on-line dating scene, I've begun to understand that statement in a whole new way: It seems to me that looking for the right mate is very much like looking for the right dog. As I go out on dates, I'm screening for companionship, loyalty, livability, attractiveness, personality, temperament, and trainability -- not unlike what I looked for when I got my first dog a couple years ago. So I'm applying the lessons learned from dog-shopping to my present project of mate-shopping:
1.) KNOW YOURSELF - DECIDE WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU.
When I decided to get a dog, I listed qualities that were important to me: I like fluffy dogs with very soft fur. My canine companion should be quiet with an easy-going temperament; I'm not into high-maintenance or high-strung dogs. My dog will be cute, but need not be gorgeous. And finally, it would help if the dog is already semi-trained.
I've given similar thought to the man I want in my life: I'd like one who's attractive, but he need not be gorgeous -- his personality is what's enduring, and endearing. Easy-to-live-with is very important -- no high-maintenance guys. Previous experience with marriage and kids is good, because chances are he's at least partially trained. And just like my dog, my man should be intelligent, funny, responsive, loving, loyal, and playful.
2.) THERE ARE MANY WONDERFUL ONES FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE.
As I began my dog-shopping, I discovered there are many terrific dogs available -- all different colors, sizes, faces, bodies, voices, and personalities. There were dogs for every taste and lifestyle - none were inherently good or bad, just different. All I needed to do was find that one who would fit my taste and my lifestyle.
It's the same with men -- there are many terrific men available -- all different colors, sizes, faces, bodies, voices, and personalities. None are inherently good or bad -- just different. I want to pick the one who's right for me.
3.) DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND TAKE YOUR TIME.
My dog search involved talking to people, doing some research, and visiting places where dogs were available. I asked dog owners and dog trainers what I needed to know. I visited public animal shelters, pet stores, and breeders. I kept an open mind and an open heart -- receptive to each mutt's good qualities. I looked, listened, touched, petted, and talked to the available dogs. I paid attention to how each responded to me -- or didn't.
It's the same thing with dating -- I consult with girlfriends who've successfully negotiated the minefield of today's dating scene. I do my research -- therapy, books, seminars, and lots of flirting. I put myself in social situations where I can meet great guys. I look, listen, and talk to available men. Yes, sometimes I touch and nuzzle them, too -- even kiss and pet. But I don't take them home. No, I won't do that until I'm sure I've found the one who's right for me.
4.) FINDING THE RIGHT ONE IS NOT THE END ... IT'S JUST THE BEGINNING.
The first few months new dog ownership were an adjustment -- not for the dog -- for me. One day I called a girlfriend to complain: "I think I made a mistake. ... Yes, the dog is affectionate, loving, fuzzy and warm, and she makes me laugh. But jeez ... she interrupts my work, she needs attention, she's full of energy and goes running around in the house when I'm trying to write. I can't get any peace and quiet -- she's just here all the time!"
My friend burst out laughing. "Sounds just like a husband to me," she said. "That dog is training you to have a husband!" After a moment of stunned silence, I laughed too.
It took six months to fully adjust to having this dog in my home and in my life. Now I'm ready to make the bigger adjustment of bringing a man into my life -- though it may take a bit longer than six months to adjust to having a two-legged companion.
I just wish there were adoption centers where men were organized by size and breed, their vital information posted on little 3x5 cards on their cage doors. I suppose that on-line dating profiles are supposed to serve that function, but when the dogs are allowed to fill out their own 3x5 cards to describe themselves ... well, who knows what to believe about them? Everyone knows how dogs exaggerate.
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