Hands on Laptop

At the risk of recruiting your ridicule, I’ll confess: I met my boyfriend of the past six months through one of those semi-odious online dating sites. But in my defense, how else would a super-busy person find a partner outside her profession?

Here, too, I must ‘fess up: In spite of its ultimate success, the online dating experience was zero fun. In fact, the process was uncomfortably reminiscent of Benjamin Franklin’s famed quote on genius: “one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” (Or humiliation, as the case may be.) Make no mistake: Online dating is hard work. 

Which got me wondering: How can finding an Internet-sourced mate be so darn challenging compared to finding an animal companion via identical means?

I mean, it’s not as if there aren’t zillions of fish in the burgeoning sea of humanity. Indeed, there are far more men and women looking to pair up than there are pets seeking love in forever homes. So how can it be that online human-animal connection failures happen so infrequently relative to the average human-only experience?

Based on this imponderable notion, I set about to plumb the depths of this mystery — mostly by polling a small group of pet-friendly people who’d engaged in both online animal rescue and online dating. So it’s with a generous heart that I offer you these fine points to ponder as you embark on your own online adventures in love and companionship:

1. In general, humans consider online dating an ugly, inconvenient necessity.

Though all the people I polled admitted to having found long-term relationships online, they almost universally detested the process. “Like making sausage,” one quipped. “You really don’t want to know what it takes to make it, but the results are undeniably delicious.”

Can’t say I’d put it quite like that, but she has a point. I made venison sausage just last week, and it’ll take at least a couple of months before I’ll be able to forget the process long enough to stomach my own cooking. (Good thing it freezes well.)

2. By contrast, choosing a pet online can be fun. Lots of fun.

When selecting a pet, you have your pick of gorgeous winners in all categories. You’re not restricted by age, hair color, income or lifestyle choices. You’re free to choose any one you like before trying him on for size. And when you do meet your prospective companion in person, it’s almost always a magical moment, whether you choose to offer him a forever home… or not.

3. The odds are NOT in your favor when it comes to human connections.

When sourcing a mate, you’re unlikely to find a match right off the bat. For starters, you’re relegated to a list of potential mates that meet a relatively narrow set of extremely superficial criteria. Then you’re expected to communicate with humans who may or may not see fit to respond to your advances — for any reason or (more often) for no reason at all.

It’s as if the universe is trying to break you in to the concept of rejection slowly and impersonally before it progresses to the serious business of humiliation: the (almost) blind date. Which brings me to…

4. Few pets will judge you as soon as you walk into the room.

As soon as you’re in their presence, prospective pets will typically cavort with you in an overabundance of beguilingly clueless naîvete. Adorable!

Sadly, the average human online dater harbors such specific goals that, given our species' penchant for egotistic intractability and neuroticism, even the most superlative specimen of masculinity or femininity will almost certainly fail to meet expectations. Consider:

“Too much makeup! She’s trying way too hard.”

“His tie is repulsive. I’ll forever have to monitor his wardrobe selections.”

“Look how she holds her fork! Mom would absolutely detest her.”

5. Animals never lie.

Sure, some online adoptions come down to puppy peddling, but they’re not the norm — at least not on the well-respected websites I’m most familiar with. In fact, most of the humans behind the animals are doing their best to ensure a perfect home for each needy creature. Which, as a rule, requires absolute honesty.

Online daters? Not so much. I mean, if I had a dime for every tubby guy who checked the “athletic and toned” button on the list labeled “body type,” I’d be able to spring for a date through one of those pricey private matching services (not that those are much better — or so my sources say). Not that tubby is a deal breaker, mind you; it’s the obfuscation that’s a turnoff.

6. Commitment is less commonly a deal-breaking concern in animal adoptions.

From the outset, it’s the unspoken rule that animal adoptions are designed as a forever thing. Not so with online human interactions. Truth be told, a significant percentage of online daters (and here I refer to men, in particular) seek nothing more than, well, to assuage their animal instincts.

Which, come to think of it, is probably why online pet adoptions run so smoothly relative to their human counterparts. The vagaries of humanity’s basest urges being what they are, it only makes sense that people are more likely to find a satisfying long-term relationship with nonhuman companions — a sentiment to which I can add only one choice remark about my online dating experience: Never again.