My old dog Joe had a fine nose for an Airedale. He could sniff out mice, McDonald’s wrappers, and other fascinating objects from astonishingly long distances.
Little did I know that one day, he’d sniff out my future husband.
Exactly 20 years ago this week, Joe and I were to be taped for a weekly outdoor segment on San Francisco’s NBC station. We were there to publicize the first edition of my book, The Dog Lover’s Companion to the Bay Area. The host was a guy named Craig Hanson, and as Joe and I got out of our old pickup truck, we saw a nice-looking fellow, a Springer Spaniel, and a woman holding a large TV camera. Joe tugged the leash to get over to them and say hi, wagging all the way.
Introductions were made, and for the next three hours Yoli, the photographer, shot footage of the four of us as we walked and talked at Land’s End and Ocean Beach, and dined at a dog-friendly ice-cream parlor nearby. Nisha and Joe got on like old friends. He didn’t mind it when she barked any time he got near the stick she’d found and was proffering to any passing stranger to entice a good game of fetch. And she stared at him with what appeared to be great admiration when he dug a hole deeper than his body in a far-off corner of the beach.
We had a fun afternoon, and when it came time to part, I saw Yoli talking to Craig. Then he came over and thanked me for everything, and said what a nice interview and day it had been. I agreed, we said good-bye, and as I was leaving, he asked the big D question: “If you’d ever like to walk the dogs together, please let me know.”
I would find out from Yoli years later, at a company Christmas party, that she could tell he liked me, but that without a little encouragement, he would not have been bold enough to approach me for a future get-together. So she gave him the encouragement, and he had the perfect excuse: dogs — the ultimate social lubricant.
A week later, I called about that dog walk. We were friends for a few months, and then things blossomed into a rock-solid relationship.
Three years after that, we got married on our nifty old fishing boat. The canines who brought us together had prominent roles in our tiny wedding: Joe was the ring bearer, bearing a little ring-holding pouch around his neck. Nisha was the flower girl, and wore a collar of purple flowers. (Joe, as you can see in the top photo and the one below, did not take well to the rocking motion of the boat on San Francisco Bay. He was prone to turning green on the water — even on big ferries — but I’m happy to report that the did not lose his lunch during the ceremony.)
Hard to believe it has been 20 years. Joe and Nisha are long gone, but they live on through our memories and the relationship they helped spark.
Anyone who owns a dog knows that they tend to increase social interactions, and studies back that up.
“Dogs act as social icebreakers and help people strike up friendly conversation with others,” says June McNicholas, senior psychology research fellow at the University of Warwick in the U.K. “We are probably much more sociable than society allows us. It is difficult for us to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger –- all sorts of ulterior motives may be suspected. But being with a dog (or other pet) gives a safe, nonthreatening, neutral topic to start a conversation.”
I bet it’s safe to say most of us have experienced this effect. Do you find it’s easier to meet people when you’re out with your dog than when you’re alone? And the big question: Have you ever met a significant other via your dog? Tell us your stories!