AS IF the UK’s dogs didn’t have enough pampering with their own shampoos, clothes, sunglasses and hotels, now they can go a step further with their own dating agency. Owners who feel that their dogs need romance, or perhaps just companionship, can register them on a lonely hearts website.
More than 40 singleton canines have already been signed up with the "Cold Nose Warm Heart" agency, which their owners hope will help them meet the dog of their dreams.
Many of the advertisements read just like those in human lonely hearts columns. There's a "handsome fit, male", who likes "walks in the park, lazy afternoons and good food", seeking an "attractive, friendly female".
There's Nicky, from Swansea, who is homely and "likes to be pampered". Rex, from Norwich, who likes to "sit in the sun". Others, however, describe characteristics that could be alarming if you didn't know that the agency was for animals.
Poppy from Wolverhampton, for example, likes playing games with ropes; Poochie from the West Midlands enjoys "licking people"; Duke from London drinks water from the lavatory and loves playing with sticks.
Caroline Polledri, 25, said that she had set up the website because she did not like walking her dog Harry alone in the forest near her home and wanted to find him a companion. "I started thinking about dating for dogs and it happened from there," she said.
Dog-owners have to pay £10 to register their pets, and the agency promises "a discreet and confidential service". The project is also helping to create friendships between owners.
The website’s introduction to the canine lonely hearts page says: "Does your dog get lonely? Does it melt your heart to see him sitting there, just pining away for the company of other pooches? Don’t worry- in just five minutes online you may well be able to conjure up some puppy love for your doggy best friend!"
In Cornwall, Paul Scott's dog, a spaniel called Spot - who "likes to be stroked, is loyal and enjoys chocolate drops" - was matched with Sparkle, a dachshund who "likes playing in the garden, is slightly aloof" and was seeking "a clean and good-looking companion".
The dogs got along fine and Mr Scott, 26, a window cleaner, said that he "became mates" with Sparkle's owner, Andy Barrat, an IT professional who also lives in Cornwall, about 10 miles from Mr Scott.
"I came across this site and I thought, 'that's really cool, I could go out with another person with another dog and I'm sure my dog would like it as well'," said Mr Scott.
"I would have never met Andy usually. He wears a suit and plays computers, and I'm just a window cleaner. But he's a fun bloke and we get along well, and there's Spot and Sparkle, this sausage dog running along - they are hilarious, like the odd couple."
Mr Barrat, 34, added: "This is great - after registering I can have as many friends for Sparkle as I like."
Miss Polledri said that the service could lead to romances between dog-owners, although this was not the agency's main aim.
Cold Nose Warm Heart’s website: www.doggydating.co.uk/