As part of my divorce, I lost my Bernese Mountain Dogs to my ex-husband, who moved to Arizona. The grief of losing my girls was overwhelming, but after much recovery time, I decided to take another chance on love. Six years ago, I drove to a Bernese Mountain Dog breeder in the hills of Pennsylvania and found a lovable male pup who was deemed the runt of the litter. Today, Chance is bigger than 100 pounds and acts like a lap dog. Our relationship is effortless, fun, and filled with so much love that passersby often point and stare.
Being a dog owner is a life-changing event. Everything changes from the moment that bundle of fur, puppy breath, and energy comes home. This creature is with you ALL the time and loves you unconditionally. So, when it’s time to date (um, bring someone into the pack), your dog’s opinion means a lot. More importantly, your dog knows you and only wants the best for you.
Chance has the final say whether a guy stays or is unceremoniously given the boot. That might seem harsh, but when I’ve gone against his “sniff test” I’ve paid for it with a broken heart, moving expenses, and many nights sitting on my couch eating my way through the 31 flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream.
There was a time when Chance was giving me all the signs that this “one” was not the right one, signs I ignored for more than a year and subsequently paid for dearly. I was so enamored and blinded that I didn’t want to see he was right about Mr. Wrong, but I continued to pour my heart and forgive time and time again.
Chance’s frustration must have been at an all-time high. One morning as I opened the bedroom door to grab us some orange juice, Chance rushed in, jumped on the bed, and peed like a racehorse all over Mr. Wrong. Everything slowed down, like it does in cheesy movies. Screaming “Nooooooooo,” I grabbed Chance by his collar and immediately took him outside.
Chance sat there and looked at me. He didn’t pee, he didn’t move, nor did he walk to his favorite pee spot. There it was, the hint that was so big you could drive a Mack truck through it. But I still didn’t get it.
As I headed back in to apologize, I heard muffled sounds that sounded like cursing wafting from the shower. By the time Mr. Wrong reappeared, I’d stripped the bed of pee-soaked linen and was on the verge of tears. He smiled (now that I think about it, it was definitely a smirk) and said, “Don’t worry about it — it’s okay.” It was the signal of all signals that this relationship was an epic don’t, but I still didn’t get it.
Two years later (yup, can you believe it?) I finally realized what my dog had known all along: Mr. Wrong was ALL WRONG. Chance and I moved out of the Long Island house Mr. Wrong never moved into and headed back to Manhattan. I told myself from then on I would listen to my dog. As I sat surrounded by boxes in my new apartment I lamented to my dad about the serious misstep I’d taken. True to form, all my dad said was, “Chance was right when he peed all over him.”
It’s not so easy being a single woman in New York City. It really doesn’t matter how much due diligence you do, because a dud date will still slip through. My solution? From now on, all men must pass Chance’s sniff test –and the results have been resoundingly spot on.
At the urging of friends to “date someone who wasn’t my norm,” I agreed to go out with a guy who, let’s just say, was the complete opposite. He stood five feet, five inches tall, so I towered over him in flats. When I opened the door to greet him, Chance started growling (the scary kind with teeth showing) and wouldn’t let him in.
Chance vehemently refused to leave the doorway, so I asked Not My Type Guy to wait outside. When I grabbed my coat, Chance latched onto it and pulled me away from the door. This is by far not normal good dog behavior of my lovable well-behaved four-legged friend, so I immediately heeded his warning and told Not My Type Guy through the door that this wasn’t going to work, sorry. As soon as I did that, Chance let go of my coat, started doing his happy dance, and danced to his bed and relaxed.
The next day I received a text from one of my faux friends say that she heard that I was going out with — let’s just call him Jack to protect the not so innocent — and that I should be careful because he had given her a gift that keeps on giving. Hmmm!
Dog 1, Humans 0.
I met the next guy on an online dating site. Based on his profile, he was cute, and he appeared as if he had all his stuff together (gainfully employed, lived in one of the right ZIP Codes, and didn’t have a brood of children under 5). We talked on the phone and made plans to meet for lunch. To my pleasant surprise, he looked like his picture, and his body type was not a figment of his imagination. What a promising start! Lunch was great and the conversation went well. Dates two and three quickly followed and went just as well.
As the critical fourth date — dinner at my place — I was hopeful because the Anti-Cupid was able to cross the threshold, take off his jacket, and sit on the couch. But things went downhill fast.
When I went to sit next to the Anti-Cupid, Chance made a beeline for the couch and sat on him. Imagine 140 pounds of dead weight with fur. No cajoling or treats worked: Chance was not moving, and he started snarling when Anti-Cupid tried to move him.
I didn’t want Chance to snap at him and get me sued, so with a sharp tone I told the guy not to move (not that he could, anyway) and grabbed his coat. When I walked toward the couch with his coat, Chance climbed off him.
I apologized to Anti-Cupid as Chance escorted him out. As I closed the door, I turned around to see Chance giving me a disgusted look. I was perplexed, because there were no alarms and nothing out of the ordinary on our three dates. Sighing, I headed to the kitchen to serve myself a nice helping of the lasagna that was intended to have been our romantic dinner. I pulled out my computer and just for fun I did a web search on the guy’s name. Holy moly! I nearly choked on a mouthful of lasagna. What came up on the first page of searches was enough for me.
Dog 2, Humans 0.
Several date-free months later I made my weekly stop at the Aroma Espresso bar near my apartment. The manager is really nice and always happy to see me. As I walked in, true to form, the manager gave me a hug and asked me how I was. I headed to the counter where, just like Norm from Cheers, my beverage was handed to me. I smiled and said “Thank you, honey bunny” to the teenager behind the counter, who shook his head giggling and walked off. Next I heard a man’s voice say “Honey bunny — really?”
I turned to see who was about to receive a “mind ya business” look and saw that the unwelcomed commentator was a handsome — who am I kidding, he was HOTT with two Ts — man grinning at me.
I quickly changed my disposition and explained it was a running joke, but of course I had to be cute so I added, “Any guy would be honored to have me call him honey bunny.” Hot Coffee Guy smiled and responded, “Of course they would be.”
I turned back around to partake of my coffee and check my email. A few minutes later I heard a voice ask, “Is anyone sitting here?” It’s my lucky day, because it’s Hot Coffee Guy. “No, please sit” left my mouth before I could even think.
For about an hour, we talked about sports, politics, and the best breed of big dogs for city living. I did not want the conversation to end, but I had to pick Chance up from doggie daycare.
“All good things must come to an end,” I said as I got up off the stool.
“Do you mind company picking up the best-looking dog on the Upper West Side?” he asked.
Of course I didn’t!
We walked the five blocks, chatting and laughing along the way, but I was nervous. This guy was uber hot, and I wasn’t sure how Chance would respond to an unknown man coming with me to pick him up.
The girl at the daycare counter gave me the girls-only smile that means “Nicely done” and called down on the walkie-talkie for the team to bring up Chance. A few minutes later I heard his paws on the floor before I saw his wagging tail and happy face come around the corner. On glimpsing me he proceeded to run and I bent down to give him a hug.
Then he noticed Hot Coffee Guy. This was the moment of reckoning.
There were no fireworks, no growling, no canine wrestling moves.
Chance leaned over and started sniffing, then without command he sat and gave paw to Hot Coffee Guy. Wow, that was a first.
We three walked back to Aroma without incident. I told Hot Coffee Guy that Chance and I needed to get home, but it was great meeting and talking with him. He asked for my number, which I happily shared without hesitation.
As Chance and I walked home, I received a text from … you guessed it. I smiled and glanced at Chance to see if there was anything I needed to pay attention to. He was just prancing, and approvingly he looked back up at me.
It’s been about five months, and Hot Coffee Guy and I are still dating. It appears that he has passed the sniff test.
Chance 3, Humans 0!
About the Author: Yvette Schmitter is a writer and entrepreneur who lives on the Upper West Side of New York City with her dog, Chance.
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