For the past three years, I’d been a mom to a retired racing Greyhound. She was not affectionate, excitable or playful. She didn’t know how to fetch. She never barked. And because she was so slender and graceful, and got so much attention, I started feeling like I had a haughty supermodel for a roommate, not an affectionate companion. For a single girl, this is the worst kind of nightmare.
This wasn’t what I wanted in a pet. I like big, sloppy, silly dogs that just wanted full access to your lap. I adopted her right after my Rottweiler was put down, but she made me miss my old dog even more.
After a few years, it was clear that I wasn’t what she wanted in a mom, either. She was alone most days, after a lifetime of living in a pack. My friends kept commenting that she looked “depressed.” So I contacted the rescuers I adopted her from and they suggested I bring her back.
When I dropped her off at the foster’s house, I knew I’d done the right thing. There was a huge fenced-in yard with a wading pool under a giant elm tree. At home were another Greyhound and a Doberman, three kids and a stay-at-home mom. Her foster mom told me she was frolicking in the pool within minutes. After months of angst, my heart was truly at peace.
I spoke to the foster mother about how fostering works. That got me thinking how that might work for me. I would be doing a good thing, first of all—so many shelters are packed with desperate pets. Second, I could have a companion without the permanent commitment of adoption. Of course, if we clicked, I could adopt. And best of all, it was much cheaper than adopting: many shelters will provide pet supplies and cover medical costs. I was convinced!
I thought about what I needed in a pet, and decided maybe a dog wasn’t the right thing for me at the moment. I’m out of the house far too often, really don’t like the 6 am walks, and honestly? I avoid the dog park—I can’t carry on a conversation with the other dog people.
I am not a cat person, but I was willing to try something new. Within a week I had a tabby hiding under my couch. After two weeks went by—she was still under the couch. She hadn’t eaten. I called the shelter. The woman in charge of fostering took her back and gave me another cat—a huge, super furry, super affectionate calico. When I say “super furry” I mean every inch of clothing and furniture had cat hair on it. And when I say “super affectionate,” I mean non stop physical assault on my lap. Not a moment’s peace.
Onto the next cat. She was super adorable—a teeny, tiny tuxedo with the skinniest neck and biggest ears I’d ever seen. She arrived and within minutes was on my lap, but not cloying. By the second day, she was giving me neck massages and kisses. I was smitten … until she got comfortable in my home. Since then, I’ve had to replace two lamps, a pair of shoes, a vase and countless cable wires. The massages are still great, but not at 2 am. I nicknamed her Zoo Baby because she was like a tiny Langur, climbing everywhere. Adorable, but I’m not sure she’s for me.
Now I’m waiting to get a calm, sweet 6-year-old female Russian Blue from the shelter. I hope this one really works out.
I noticed that for all my pets, I’d always used relationship-y terms. I gave back my Greyhound because “the magic is gone.” Shelter animals are all like bitter divorcees. The first cat I fostered was “emotionally distant.” The cloying, overbearing cat was “codependent.” Zoo Baby was “the Bad Boy.” Each surrender back the shelter was a “breakup.” Now I’m waiting for my “soulmate” pet.
But then I thought about it: isn’t dating a bit like pet ownership, anyway? We try out pets to see if it’s a good match. If it is, we bring them into our lives and it’s mutual love and happiness. If not, we move on to the next prospect.
I started thinking a lot about our internet dating approach: it’s more like a job search than a quest for love. Profiles are resumes, F2Fs are interviews.
Maybe this isn’t the best approach. Maybe we could consider it more like fostering a pet. Isn’t our need for that unconditional love for a pet, the desire to make our pets a part of our families, pretty much what we’re looking for in our mates?
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the British nickname for life partners is “pet.” Something to think about, indeed!
I hope all CatholicMatch members, even the non-pet people, could shift their way of thinking about their online search for love. And I wish every last one of you the best in your search. God bless!