I BRING my dog on dates. For me, it’s a no-brainer as it instantly weeds out the kind of people I don’t want to be around — i.e. people who have no interest in or respect for my canine companion.
My beautiful greyhound Sherry is, after all, family, and therefore I expect everyone close to me to treat her as such.
The way to this woman’s heart is clearly through her dog.
So, when I recently heard about a dating website designed specifically for dog lovers, I was delighted and intrigued.
And I wasn’t the only one. When the launch of Leads2Love was announced on the Dog Action Welfare Group (DAWG) Facebook page in July 2017, one follower responded by saying: “I love this idea. I’ve never been into online dating, never tried it, but this might actually entice me. Who doesn’t love a man who loves dogs?!”
Another responded by tagging a friend and telling them: “Well, isn’t this the best site for you, as you stop talking to someone as soon as they say they’re not a dog person!”
Dog people are dog people. We love our dogs like they’re our children and therefore dating a non-dog lover, or a soulless sub-human as I like to call them, is just not an option.
This is where Lead2Love comes in. Describing itself as ‘an online dating and walks site made by dog lovers, for dog lovers, in Ireland’, it is the only dating site of its kind in the country.
It was the brain-child of dog lovers Elena Rees, originally from Johannesburg but living in Cork for 17 years, and her future brother-in-law Russell Canny, from Rochestown.
Leads2Love currently has 120 members, nearly 600 Facebook followers, and it recently teamed up with mental health arts festival First Fortnight to organise the first Leads 2 Better Mental Health walk, which encouraged dog lovers with or without their own pets to meet up for a stroll at Blackrock Castle followed by coffee and chats afterwards.
“We believe that dogs are good for your mental health,” explains Elena, whose background is in marketing, management and photography. “No matter how much of a bad day you may be having, your dog will always put a smile on your face and greet you with a waggle and perhaps a kiss.”
Leads2Love are planning more social walks and their website features detailed descriptions of various walks you can take your dog on around the country.
“We encourage all our members to get out and about and walk your dogs every day, but what better way to meet up with another member than to takes your dogs for a walk?” asks Elena, whose two and a half year old Shih-Tzu cross Cavalier Rosie is now the mascot of the website.
Her mission is to “provide the best matchmaking service for individuals looking for a relationship with another dog lover.”
Elena believes that “man’s best friend really is the greatest ice-breaker” and this realisation led to the development of the website.
Her co-founder, Russell, who also works for family business D Canny Garage, walks his two dogs every day and noticed that they really broke the ice when meeting other people.
“I felt the same happened when I walked Rosie,” says Elena. “They are a great conversation piece.
“Friends of mine who had been on various online dating sites had very little success and the main issue was that they felt they had nothing in common with the other person.
“So, myself and Russell thought a dating site for dog lovers would be a great idea as people will be joining a site knowing they already have a common interest with everybody else on the site... that interest being dogs.
“Other dating sites such as Tinder or Plenty of Fish are just normal dating sites where you could waste time meeting plenty of people ,but it may not work out as they may not like dogs, or have any interest in walking or the outdoors.”
The idea of adding walk suggestions and organising scheduled walks to the site was integral as Elena feels that “this is a healthy way of dating rather than spending hard earned cash in bars and restaurants”.
As well as encouraging relationships between like-minded dog lovers by promoting healthy dates, Leads2Love, which is free to join, comes with the added bonus that every click on an advert on the website makes money for the site, a portion of which is donated every year to DAWG.
DAWG is a collective of volunteers who take care of abandoned, abused and ill-treated dogs in Cork city and county.
“We will try to support them as much as possible as both Russell and myself admire all their hard work,” says Elena.
With plans to expand their website to the UK and America in the future, Elena adds: “We have received such good feedback from people who love the idea and we truly believe it has huge potential.”
An article on the website barkpost.com recently described dog-lovers as the perfect date because they’re easy-going, world class cuddlers, friendly, active, forgiving, considerate, patient, happy and healthy, as well as being “an animal in the sack”. Their words, not mine!
I ask Elena if she has anything to add to this glowing list.
“Dog lovers are affectionate, they are loyal, they are providers — ask and it shall be given — and they are not afraid of long term commitment.
“If you want a cuddle and a kiss, find a dog lover.
“This is not to say that non-dog lovers won’t be a good catch, but dog lovers do have some captivating qualities that would make their relationships strong, lasting and loving.”
I couldn’t agree more.