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Dating and Mating (5/31/06)

Dear Zelda,

Last year my husband died and now I am a single mom with two teenagers.  Although I'm getting by financially I'm not having much of a social life.  Our friends, who used to invite us to parties, don't call and invite me anymore.  I guess I'm the third wheel.  I don't like going to bars.  It's not that I'm opposed to alcohol, I just don't feel right nor do I think I'll meet the right people there.  I'm afraid of online dating, so help me Zelda. How or where can I meet Mr. Right?

Out of Circulation

Dear Out of Circulation

Losing your husband, grieving, handling two teenagers, AND finding Mr. Right is a lot to deal with all at once!  I am so sorry to hear that your friends haven't been more helpful. Good friends are always supposed to be there for you. Shame on them! We dogs know better! My guess is that your friends are unsure whether or not it's appropriate to invite you to those events, or whether you would even want to be invited. If you'd like that to change, you might try taking the initiative and letting a few of your good friends know that you would still like to be included in their social lives.

But while social lives are important, you're asking a more specific question... how do you go about meeting Mr. Right when bars and online dating just don't suit you?

My strong suggestion, not surprisingly, is that you get a dog, or if you already have one, make him/her part of your socializing. I know this sounds like a lot of work in your already overcrowded life, but if you get your teens to pitch in and share the responsibility, it'll be less work than you think, and a great source of love and support for the family. More importantly, we dogs are pretty good socializers ourselves, and make great 'date-bait' for our owners. We love to go for walks and there's no better ice-breaker than a dog... except, perhaps, when we try to 'date' the leg of your new acquaintance, and even that is laugh-a-bull.  It's my belief that men who don't like dogs fall into the Mr. Wrong category anyway. So it's always good to get OUR 'second opinion.'  In addition to dog walking, there are many other dog-related activities where you can get involved and meet people: local canine clubs, obedience classes, dog shows, and canine fund raising events. Most 'dog people' are really great people with big hearts and a sense of fun.  Dog people are REAL PEOPLE who think that no outfit is complete without a dash of dog hair, and that being perfect isn't part of a perfect life...dogs and teenagers are! Aren't these all good qualifications for Mr. Right?

So why don't you and your children look for the 'RIGHT' dog first, or, use your already "RIGHT" dog?   Mr. Right is likely to follow right in your pet's paw prints.

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

My best friend and I are sophomores at a college in the Midwest. We've had an agreement that if one of us was dating someone, the other wouldn't try to date her too.  My problem now is that my friend is dating someone whom I like and I think she likes me too. How do I handle this?

Date-mess in the Midwest

Dear Date-mess:

It's all about character isn't it?  It sounds like this is just the sort of situation that your agreement was meant to deal with, right? So I think the answer is actually quite simple, even if it's not going to be easy: either be honest about your feelings and come clean, or stay quiet about it, let their relationship run its course, and remain true to your friend. The good news is that you haven't broken your word...yet.  Personally, I'd suggest you sit down with your friend over a refreshing beverage and find out how he feels about the woman he is dating.  You might tell him how you feel, even if it is awkward. There is no good time for this, only lost time, and the further along their relationship gets, the harder it will be, so do it NOW. If he is totally taken with the young woman, you need to step back and wait. Time will tell whether their relationship works.

This same situation has played itself out countless times in the history of mankind (and dogkind, let me tell you). There are many choices you could make, and lots of advice you could receive on the matter, but ultimately it's up to you. Character isn't the person you'd like to be, but the person you are today. To quote Thomas Macauley, "The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out."

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

I am presently dating a great guy who has a big Rottweiler. My problem is that my sweet little Cocker Spaniel doesn't like his big old Rottweiler, and we can't go anywhere with the two of them.  We would like to go camping but can't imagine having them in the same car together, let alone the same tent. Any advice would be helpful Zelda.

Canines Cramping Camping

Dear Canines Cramping Camping,

That sounds like one wild and wooly situation! The most important piece of advice I can offer is to 'pack' before you leave for that camping trip. By 'pack,' I'm not talking burgers and bug spray, I'm talking about the pack order of your two pets. I'm just guessing, but I'd bet YOUR Cocker Spaniel and HIS Rottweiler didn't meet on neutral territory.  This happened to Zoe and me, so I have some first-hand experience. In our case, we were introduced in MY home and because it was my turf, when she walked in, the fur flew and a lot of canine four-letter words were exchanged, especially when puppy Zoe decided to jump on MY bed. It took a long time for us to straighten out the pack order, not to mention the rest of the house.

So my first suggestion is that you introduce your two dogs (both on leashes) in a neutral location, say an enclosed park or yard where neither dog has previously visited.  That's how I met ZeeZee, and once we established rank (ME ME ME) in the park by sniffing, peeing, tail-wagging and growling, I couldn't wait to bring her home and show ZeeZee her "new digs." However, if one of your dogs becomes overly aggressive in the park, separate them and reprimand the aggressor.  Comfort both dogs, being firm in communicating your expectation that they will get along. Have them "sit" for a little time-out and then try introducing them again. Continue to shorten the distance between the two dogs, letting them sort out their position in the pack.  

Once your two dogs have established their place in the pack, then and only then is it time to bring them home. (If you are living in two homes you'll need to do this twice.) My strong suggestion here is that you let the 'other' dog enter first to reduce the chance that your dog feels the need to protect her/his turf.

In addition you should keep both dogs on loose leashes for the first few days so that you can grab and quickly correct unacceptable behavior. You might even have two separate crates for them and definitely two separate sleeping areas. Each dog should have its own toys and bowls. Allow equal time for both pets until they are comfortable with each other and feed them in separate areas. Soon it will be obvious which dog is the alpha, so feed that dog first and continue to recognize his/her alpha status. Be sure to confine them to separate areas when you are away (here's where crates come in handy). Most importantly, never never never leave the dogs alone together until they have accepted each other and even then, do so with caution.

If you can be consistent in following my advice, I'm sure it won't be long before your sleeping bags are bundled, your camp stove is stowed, and your car is crowded with companionable canines.  

Here's to happy s'mores and snores.

Zelda