Pets Need Pals Too! How to Find Yours a New BFF

More on PawNation: BFF, Dogs, Lifestyle, Relationship
My dog Rhoda and I met Molly and her owner in a park across the street from our apartment in Jersey City, NJ. It was love at first sight. Their eyes locked; they ran across the tennis court and collided in the middle with a top-speed body slam, teeth clacking as they chewed on each other.

Soon, we got a key to Molly's house. While her owners were at work, Rhoda and I took Molly to the park, then our apartment, where they'd wrestle while I worked. We'd drop Molly off a few hours later, and Rhoda would pass out for the rest of the day.


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I had no idea how lucky I was.

Last summer, I moved to Memphis and quickly realized: It's impossible for me to tire Rhoda out by myself, and finding a new best dog friend isn't easy. The nearest dog park is 20 minutes away--and Rhoda just sniffs the grass instead of playing with other dogs.

"It seems crazy," I told my boyfriend, "but I think she misses Molly."

I wasn't crazy. "Dogs need friends just like people do," says Pam Reid, PhD, vice president of the ASPCA's Animal Behavior Center. But dog parks aren't the best place to find them. "It's like going to a party where there's a bunch of strangers," Reid says. "Not everybody's going to be okay jumping right in." And getting comfortable isn't simply about familiarity: Dogs have different personalities, and some personalities just don't click.

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Occasionally we'd meet a dog Rhoda clicked with--then we'd never see it again. Soon I found myself on Dogster, a rapidly growing canine social networking site, where I created what looked like an online dating profile for Rhoda ("Desperately Seeking Playmates"). Suddenly, I was inundated with e-mails from pet owners writing in the first person as their dogs, often in baby voices. I found those owners painful, and Rhoda clearly felt the same about their dogs. So I started looking for like-minded people who I figured must have like-minded dogs.

That's when I turned to Facebook, the social networking site for humans. I searched for people my age in Memphis and then checked their profiles to see if they--like me--had Facebook pages for their dogs. I e-mailed a funny guy with a dog named Abbey: This may sound weird, but I just moved to town and. Soon, Rhoda and Abbey were unconscious from exhaustion while we humans drank wine and laughed.

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I found Slippers in a coffee shop, where I overheard a woman talking about how fast her dog could run. I found Hazel during orientation for my new teaching job. I'd planted myself next to a woman who looked like she could be a friend and then casually mentioned dogs to see how she'd respond. Bingo. Now we hike together--two women, two dogs. Rhoda and I couldn't be happier.

The old dogs-look-like-their-owners saying is bogus: I'm brunette, Rhoda's blonde. She has fur on her face, and, well, I wax. Still, we're the same: We like the same people and the same dogs. We need friends, and thanks to those friends, we now like our new city too.

How to make dog friends
Register online on dogster.com, set up a profile for your pet, searchable by city. Do the same on facebook.com using the Dogbook application. Or, join a local, interest-based group on Dogster.

Try doggie day care
Invest in a few half-days at one that offers playtime, where they let dogs mingle. (Prices range from $15 to $30 per day.) Ask the staff which dogs yours plays with and then contact the owners.

Educate to recreate
Sign up for group obedience classes to meet dogs that are at a similar developmental level as yours.

--Rebecca Skloot

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Natalie

Our dog Dusty's best friend lives right next door. We got Lucky that they get along so well. They go swimming in there kiddy pools and romp around for an hour each day. We adopted dusty As a playmate and a companion for our other dog biscuit. They love eachother but dusty is only a year old and biscuit is 9, so he has about 10x the energy she has.

April 30 2012 at 9:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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