A woman from Rotherham whose ‘dogs are her world’ decided to take it one step further and let them make her dating decisions.
Megan Hill, 24, said letting her two cocker spaniels vet potential boyfriends has been very successful.
She was only 12 when she got puppy Ben, but the two have become lifelong companions. Megan is so devoted to Ben that when he bred with another cocker spaniel in 2013, she kept his son, Ash.
After coming out of a long-term relationship in 2019, Megan, a bartender, decided to get back into online dating in February of this year.
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Insistent that a love of dogs was a non-negotiable quality, she brought Ben and Ash out to see if they would give her dates their seal of approval.
They have been correct so far, with Megan now five weeks into happily dating a dog lover who passed her all-important test.
Megan said: “It’s still early days, but last week I let him meet the dogs for the first time.
“It was a make-or-break test for me – whether the dogs would like him. Luckily they loved him.”
Keen to make sure she only swipes right on “dog people” and not on “cat people,” she also shares her tips for weeding out canine friendly companions on online dating apps.
She said: “I always make sure Ben and Ash are in my photos and on my profile, and bring them up within the first few messages. I also scroll through every picture of my potential date, looking for any sign that he’s an animal lover.”
But, even with her eagle eye for the right dog loving man, she still struggles to find men who are as invested in dogs as she is.
She said: “I’d much rather curl up on the sofa and watch Lady and the Tramp with Ben and Ash than go out on a date.
“My dogs are my world and it’s so important to me that my date is liked by them. If they didn’t take to him, I’d have to stop seeing him.”
She added: “I make it very clear on my dating profile that I love dogs and I always make sure the second or third photo is a picture of Ben, who is 12 now, and Ash, who is now eight.”
Given Ben by her parents when her dad came out of the Army, Megan has adored him ever since.
She said: “He came all the way from Scotland. Getting him was a childhood dream come true. Now, he’s always by my side.”
She added: “During lockdown, my dogs have become even more important. I was furloughed for much of the past year, so I’ve been around constantly for them.
“It’s actually weird being back in the bar. I miss them when I’m gone.”
After ending a nine-month relationship in 2019, Megan was newly single and eager to join the dating scene.
She said: “I waited for the worst of lockdown to be over, but about four months ago I started joining some dating apps.
“That’s when I realised just how important the dogs were to my dating life.”
Any man daring to admit he did not like dogs was swiftly unmatched, while her nose for animal lovers meant she spotted anything dog related in a potential suitor’s online bio.
She said: “I’m very happy with my life as it is, with just me and the dogs, but if I can bring someone into that who will love spending time with Ben and Ash as much as I do, then that will be perfect.
“The dogs come first and if someone special wants to join us, then that’s a bonus.
“This is why I could never have a long-distance relationship, as it would force me to divide my time between the dogs and my partner.”
She added: “I struggle with anxiety and my dogs are very emotionally supportive for me. I don’t know what I’d do without them, they are my babies.”
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Megan also says her experience of living 200 miles away from her beloved pets when she studied English Literature at Winchester University put her off venturing too far away from them.
“I could never live that far away from them again,” she said. “It was heartbreaking, especially as they’re getting older. I want to spend as much time with them as possible.”
Luckily, her perseverance has paid off, as the man she has been dating for five weeks has now met Ben and Ash – and they loved him.
Megan said: “I’m hoping to take him on a dog walking date, too. I think including them on dates with me is ideal, because I feel guilty leaving them at home when I go out.
“Maybe we could take a picnic or find a beer garden that is dog friendly.”
And, while it makes everything more complicated, she has no regrets about letting her dogs choose her dates.
She said: “People who don’t have dogs don’t understand what it’s like. They’re like my children.
“I love nothing more than to sit at home, or maybe dance around the living room with them. Ben and Ash bring me out of my shell.”
She added: “The pair of them sleep right by my bed at night, I’m never without them. They’re even trained to take my socks off!
“Anyone coming into my life will come second to them, because they’re my main priority and I wouldn’t change that for anything or anyone.”
Pet expert at Webbox Naturals, Melanie Smith, says it is common for devoted owners to worry about dating in case their animals and their partners do not gel.
She said: “We’ve seen so many pooch parents struggle to find their match, because they fear their dating efforts will be in vain if relations between the partner and pup don’t work out.
“We’ve seen people go to so many lengths to make sure that they find their fur-ever love, especially as lockdown continues and ‘traditional’ dates are cast aside.
“Many dog owners are turning to virtual dating methods to find that canine connection, which can raise concerns about how the initial partner and pup meeting will go, if it can’t occur until deep into the relationship.”
She added: “The key to an instant ‘click’ is to make sure your dog feels safe during the initial meeting.
“We applaud anyone who wants to put their pet first, so we’d recommend any hesitant hound-owners take things slowly when introducing a new love interest to their pet.”
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