I’m writing an online profile about myself, and struggling to find the right words.
‘We’re caring, friendly people who are available on weeknights and weekends’, I find myself typing.
No, I’m not signing up for an ‘alternative lifestyle’ couples’ website - this is the ‘barking’ service that pairs the pet-deprived with dog owners around Britain.
‘Borrow My Doggy’ allows animal lovers without pets to spend some quality time with carefully selected dogs - and the site is sweeping the country.
The service is aimed at those who can’t commit to a canine companion, and as myself and my partner are dog lovers who work full time, it seems tailor-made for us.
We tap out a carefully-worded profile, submit one or two personal details, cough up a small subscription fee and hey presto - we’re ready to meet our perfect pooch.
‘There are 241 new dogs in your area!’ the mobile app barks at me minutes after I sign up.
We browse labradors in Lewisham and daschunds in Dulwich, rejecting those who are too far away or unavailable. It feels a bit like Tinder for wannabe pet owners.
Introductory messages are sent. We wait. No-one replies for days. Was it something we said? But eventually we make contact with Danielle and her brilliantly scruffy-looking terrier Max, and our first ‘doggy date’ is on the cards.
‘Borrowers’ who sign up to Borrow My Doggy pay £10 for the year. Dog owners must part with £45 before they can browse prospective dog-sitters.
There are obvious safety concerns - would you hand your beloved pet to complete strangers? But Borrow My Doggy makes all members verify themselves with personal details and the site itself insists that ‘safety is paramount’.
Then there’s the cost. £45 seems a lot to pay up front, but when you compare it to the £25 hourly rates of some dog kennels, it actually represents very good value.
Meanwhile in south-east London, we exchange first internet date chit-chat with Danielle (‘How long have you been on the site?’ etc) as Max tears around a local park, befriending other dogs.
There’s some walking of Max on his lead and feeding him the odd cheesy treat. For a while it feels like we’re actual dog owners, until I call Max’s name and my new friend runs away. Now it definitely feels like internet dating.
It’s undoubtedly a great way to get your canine fix if you don’t have the means to keep a dog. Both parties get to meet new people, and for owners it’s a handy way of ensuring their beloved pet gets regular walkies and attention when other aspects of life inevitably get in the way.
As Max terrorizes the squirrel population of Greenwich, Danielle, 25, explains why she joined the site.
‘I had read about similar sites before we had Max and I read about ‘Borrow My Doggy’ recently’, she said.
‘I had been hoping to get Max to build a relationship with a dog walker for the rarer occasions we could not be at home but more importantly for the holidays we would like to take it the future.
‘It seemed the ideal 'flexible' arrangement and cost effective. If we didn’t have a dog I would be signing up to be a borrower.
‘It’s early days, but it has been a really good experience so far. It has been nice to see Max socialising with new people, which you can see he enjoys and it has been great for us to get to know new people too.’
Danielle is just one of thousands who have signed up to Borrow My Doggy since it launched in October 2012.
Danish-born Rikke Rosenlund came up with the idea when she met co-founder and former RSPCA volunteer Les Cochrane at a start-up business conference.
They launched the site as a ‘weekend project’, but took it full time when they received more than 80 sign-ups in the first three days.
Rikke, 39, says the site, which now attracts ‘thousands of new members each week’, is designed for doggy safety as well as meeting new faces.
She told Yahoo: ‘It’s about getting to know someone in your local neighbourhood, and hopefully making some friends.
‘From the first time you sign up to the website, we take phone numbers, email addresses and there’s also a video verification - you can only get in contact with people who’ve been verified.’
Back in Greenwich a week later, we’ve met Danielle and Max for the elusive ‘second date’ - not that Max seems to recognise us as he scampers around on his weekday walkies.
Danielle confesses he’s been walked by ‘one or two’ other couples since we saw him. I feel used and led-on… until he eats a treat from my hand and rolls over. You can’t stay mad at Max for long.
We say our goodbyes to our new furry friend. Next week we’re meeting a ‘jackapoo’ called Zorro. We’re fully-fledged borrowers on the ‘doggy dating’ scene - and I’m amazed no-one came up with the idea sooner.