Dogs are infamous on dating apps. Leading with a photo of a cute puppy is a surefire way to guilt or woo someone into swiping right—who can resist the big brown eyes of a labradoodle?
But for people dedicated to their canines, featuring them prominently in a dating app profile gets at a crucial component of compatibility: Sleep with me, sleep with my dog. That’s the fridge magnet message Seattleite Michi Suzuki read on her first visit to her now-wife’s home. It’s also the founding principle behind Wowzer, the much-hyped Seattle-based dating app she launched in October 2019 to help dog people meet other dog people. But Wowzer, like so many other Seattle businesses, shut down for good in early spring.
Apps aren’t the first thing that come to mind when you think of pandemic closures. Especially the dating app most likely to get its users to go on a socially distanced walk. But Wowzer was just a few months post-launch and still very much an early prototype—essentially a dating profile accompanied by up to three dog profiles—when the pandemic hit and investors withdrew their funds. Keeping the app afloat through late summer, which Suzuki and cofounder Stephanie Worley did, meant hemorrhaging personal funds. Eventually Wowzer didn’t have a leg to stand on (let alone four).
“As much as I love this, and I'm a million percent committed to this...at a certain point, we just have to say, I love you, but I gotta let you go,” Suzuki says. “So that's what we decided to do.”
Wowzer’s loss left a hole in the Seattle dating app scene. According to a recent German study, we have more dogs per capita than any other city in the world. Less officially, we also have the highest number of dating-inept tech bros (not to mention that famous freeze). Dogs help break the ice. They also help us feel more confident: Studies show that interacting with their dogs increases owners’ levels of oxytocin, a hormone known for facilitating trust and social bonding.
“Really, really shy people just come together and their facial expressions warm up, their hearts open up, and they actually have the courage to have conversations with other dog owners,” Suzuki says. “That's kind of their safety blanket.”
For the record, Suzuki would be amenable to another passionate dog person launching Wowzer 2.0. Until then, Seattleites are limited to good old-fashioned dog park meet-cutes (further constrained, while the pandemic persists, by our strange human muzzles). But meanwhile, these other local dating apps offer more human-centered options:
Since the launch of Ben Mussi’s city-specific dating app in 2019, about 15,000 verified Seattleites have tried swiping local. This “microbrewery” of dating apps, as Mussi calls it, stands in sharp contrast to its corporate counterparts. (Did you know Hinge, Tinder and OkCupid are all owned by the same company?) Mussi requests frequent feedback from users and was quick to adjust the app for our Covidian needs. About a month and a half before the pandemic set in, Mussi launched a sister app in Portland which topped the Google Play charts among other dating apps in its first week. Available via App Store or Google Play.
How to Use: The Seattle Dating App is all about specifics. You’ll be prompted to enter your religious and political views (along with your preferences regarding kids, dogs, and weed). Is marriage your long-term goal? There’s an option for that. Just looking for friends? There’s an option for that, too. Interface-wise, the app functions pretty much like Tinder. Unlike Tinder, it cares less about your phone’s location and more about where and when you’re generally available to meet up, parameters you set manually. You’re by no means required to fill in all the profile details, but as this handy tutorial emphasizes, you’ve got better chances at matching if you do. —Christy Carley
Founder Shane Kolvasky used to drive to Sea-Tac on the weekends and hop on the next flight out, for the sheer adventure of it all. One day he landed in Austin, arrived at a music festival, and knew he wanted to capitalize on that moment of pure anticipation. He teamed up with his colleague Vince Copolla to build an app that would curate dates and corporate bonding sessions imbued with that same surprise and delight. In pandemic-friendly 2021 style, Mystery prepares event boxes for everything from a fun family evening to a romantic night in. Available via App Store, Google Play, or online.
How to Use: Log into Mystery online or through the app, enter the budget, timing, and basic parameters for the date, and wait for someone on their team to reach out. From there, Mystery acts as an invisible event planner, preparing takeout meals and mysterious boxes (how appropriate). Inside, you’ll find the items you need to host your at-home event, whether it's candle-making, painting, or a virtual performance. —Erin Wong