Finding the Perfect Dogs for Friends

My young adult son lives in the San Francisco Bay area with
his girlfriend, a couple of roommates, and his all-black Black and Tan
Coonhound, Cole. Cole is sweet, friendly, calm, and well-behaved, so anyone in
the household who walks Cole is constantly fielding compliments on the handsome
dog, and asked “Where did you get your dog?”

My son always tells people, “My mom volunteers at a shelter
north of Sacramento, and she finds great dogs there.” He’s repeated this so
many times that several of his friends have asked if I could help them find a
dog, too!

It’s actually one of my favorite things to do – to help
people and families find appropriate pets – and I’m pleased to say I’ve had a
few terrific successes at this job. At one point, my son was working in a
dog-friendly office where two of his co-workers had dogs they had gotten from
my shelter with my help, giving the office a total of three dogs from my little local rural shelter.

Looking for two perfect dogs

At this moment, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for four more of
my son’s friends in the form of two different young couples.

One couple is actually looking for a second dog to join their family; the young man adopted a dog – his
first! – from my shelter in 2015. Because he had never before owned a dog, I
was looking for an “easy” dog for him: a calm, adult dog with as few behavior
issues as possible. I found a beautiful brindle female who looked like she was
possibly a Greyhound-mix, who got along well with other dogs and didn’t seem to
have any issues that a novice dog owner wouldn’t be able to handle. Though she
didn’t seem to know any cues
whatsoever (not even the basics of “sit,” “down,” “come,” etc.), she was very
affectionate and loved being petted – perhaps to a fault. Demanding affection
and attention by pawing at people may have been her biggest behavior “problem.”
I fostered her for a week, gave her some basic training, and then the young man
drove three hours to adopt her, as it turned out, on February 14. Inspired by
the date, he named her Valentine.

I fostered this beautiful dog for a week before my son’s friend drove three hours to adopt her and name her Valentine.

At some point, he and Val were joined by a human female – and
the three of them pursued training so that Val could do work as a therapy dog!
I recently got an email from them with this report: “Val is living her
best life. She still comes with me to work. She also now volunteers as an
Animal Assisted Therapy dog with the SF-SPCA. She visits an emergency
shelter for domestic violence survivors where she gets petted by a bunch
of kids and their moms. I think Val gets more enjoyment out of her visits than
the kids!” I cried when I received that note! A job where she can be
petted and petted is absolutely what that dog wanted and deserved.

But the real reason that Val’s family wrote to me: Today,
they are looking for another, smaller female dog to join their family, one who
must absolutely get along with the older, very submissive, sweet Val, but who
might also be a jogging companion for the active couple.

The other
couple/friends of my son are looking for a very
small breed puppy; they’d prefer a female who will mature to about 10 pounds,
so they can take her on their travels in a small bag, but who will be athletic
enough to join them on hikes. (My son is an athlete, and so are most of his
friends!) There is a darling litter of Chihuahua/Dachshund-type pups at my
shelter that will be ready for adoption soon, and I’m hoping that one of them
will fit the bill.

Consider Likes AND Dislikes

When I agree to look for a dog for someone I know, I always
ask them for information about what they really
want and need in a dog as well as what they absolutely do not want, and I try to stick to that criteria, and encourage them
to do so, too. I beg people not to get into a rush and bend too far from what
they know they need, but to take
their time and get the dog who will fit most seamlessly into their lives and
homes and hearts. After all, there are more than enough dogs who need homes!
The right dog is out there, as long as people take their time and don’t take
home a dog they have misgivings about because they are in a rush to adopt on a
certain timetable. It can be devastating for some dogs to get adopted and
returned a number of times (note that other dogs may be happier to take breaks
from their shelter stays and don’t show signs of increased stress or “shutting
down” after failed adoptions).

Some people don’t care much about sex or breed or coat, but
the dog’s size is an issue – especially in urban areas where people may live in
housing with maximum-size rules for pets. I have known several people who are
allergic to dogs, but who are able to deal with the symptoms presented by
smaller dogs with very short, thin coats. Some people are willing and able to
deal with any sort of behavior issue that might arise; for others, a
dog-aggressive dog or one with serious separation anxiety might be beyond their
ability to address. And, of course, I always keep in mind that young couples,
in particular, should be looking for dogs who love kids.

Here’s the hardest part of going to the shelter to look for dogs that meet a potential adopter’s checklist of “wants” and “don’t wants”: Finding dogs that I adore but that don’t meet my potential adopters’ selection criteria. Take, for example, the little guy who caught my eye more than six weeks ago, when I started my on-and-off-again search for these two couples. There were actually two dogs I liked – obvious littermates, an estimated two or three years old – and I spent about an hour with the energetic little guys, teaching them to sit for treats (instead of jumping all over me) – but they didn’t appeal to either one of my adopting couples. Val’s family really would prefer a female, and the other needs a smaller dog; these boys were 15 and 20 pounds and too tall to travel in an under-the-seat bag on an airplane. I wasn’t worried, though; the boys were so cute, and I thought they would get snapped up in a hot minute.

Taking a break from the search

I have had this guy at my house for less than 24 hours and I’m already convinced what a great little dog he is. If he has flaws, I haven’t seen them yet.

I had to take a few weeks off from my search. I was on
deadline, we sold a property and there was lots of last-minute moving and
cleaning to do, and then we took a week off to travel to the East Coast for Thanksgiving
and family visits. So when I went to the shelter yesterday, I was really surprised to see the larger of
the two brother dogs still there! No takers after six weeks! It’s true that he
barks and jumps in his kennel – but when I gave him a treat through the cage bars,
he quickly remembered me and sat in order to get me to give him some more
treats, just like that. Super smart! And
so cute!

Dang it! I had no choice but to bring him home for
fostering; perhaps with some training and decompressing out of the shelter, I
can find him a home while continuing my search for a different dog for my son’s
friends. Or, breaking all my own rules about selection criteria, perhaps I can
see if Val’s family would consider a male dog after all. To me, gender seems
like the least important criteria of all – what about you? Maybe it’s more
important to other people than it is to me.

I’ll keep you posted!

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