Matchmaker, Matchmaker


I love being asked to find “the right dog” for friends or family. Especially when it’s for a person or family who is committed to taking their time to find the exact right dog –- people who don’t fall for the first cute but oh-so-inappropriate dog who comes along.


I often foster and place dogs who have lingered in the shelter for months and months with no takers, and while it’s immensely gratifying to find a good home for those dogs, it’s far, far easier to search for a specific type of dog for someone who is ready and wants one. I often brag that, given enough time (and I’m talking months, not years) I can find any type of dog for a person who has a list of traits that they want in a dog, with reasonable flexibility.

For example, one of my most recent successes: My son’s girlfriend’s aunt let it be known that she was looking for a Corgi, an adult, who could easily co-exist with her, her husband, and her husband’s small and physically fragile 94-year-old mother. The elderly mother-in-law, who still “has the run of the house” but also has some dementia, ruled out puppies and dogs who might jump and hurt her, and dogs with complicated or unforgiving attitudes about humans. In other words, the dog needed to be very friendly and trained or easily trained.

I received the request through the chain of command (auntie, girlfriend, son) and pulled up my local shelter’s website. Lo and behold, they were currently holding (in the “lost” dogs section) a Corgi-mix, adult female. She looked like she might have some Australian Cattle Dog in her – a common breed in these parts. I looked at her intake date; she had come in as a stray, picked up by county animal control, three weeks earlier. That indicated that either no one was looking for her or knew to look for her at the shelter, and that she was long past the state’s minimum hold time of four business days (the amount of time that California deems adequate for making a stray dog available for claiming by an owner, after which the shelter can either euthanize or adopt the dog out). My local shelter usually holds dogs for far longer than four days before deciding what to do with them, both to give owners more time to look for the dogs at the shelter, and to give the dogs more time to reveal what they are really like.

I went to the shelter the next day and asked the kennel manager why the dog was still listed as “lost” and not yet available for adoption. The answer was that they were certain someone would come looking for her, she was such a nice, friendly dog. I took her outside, spent an hour or so with her, took some pictures of her for Auntie, and generally liked her more every minute. When I was done, the kennel manager said to go ahead and put her in an open kennel on the “adoption” side of the shelter; she had passed all of the shelter’s evaluations (health and heartworm tests, behavior evaluation) and was ready to be made available to the public.

I emailed my thoughts about the dog and some photos to Auntie, and received an immediate response: “If you like her, we’ll take her!” They had wanted a more purebred-looking Corgi, but this was close enough. Given that Auntie and her family live more than 100 miles from me, this required them to fill out the required forms and send payment to the shelter via phone and fax, and I picked up the dog so she could stay with me for the few days that it would take us to coordinate our schedules for a change of custody. That also gave me a few days to teach Ruby, as she is now known, a few basic behaviors (sit, down, come), introduce her to hanging out in a crate, and further evaluate her in order to be able to provide advice about her behavior, if needed, once Auntie and Uncle (and elderly Mom) had her. It also gave them time to buy some gear (baby gate, bowls, leash, crate, bed, etc.) and get the house ready for a dog.

We certainly have had some long phone calls and email exchanges about Ruby, but thankfully, none of them about her health or really problematic behavior. She’s doing great with all human members of the family, though she’s shown some aggressive behavior with visiting dogs belonging to more extended members of the family. That’s quite solvable. They also asked for a referral to a positive trainer, which I was all too happy to track down (from a trainer/writer friend not far from them). We’ve spent the most time talking about diet and portion control; the family wants Ruby to stay fit and trim (their last dog died of probably obesity-related issues, and they are determined not to repeat their failure to control this dog’s weight). Mostly, they LOVE the dog and want everything to continue to go well. All in all, a GREAT adoption.

Still riding high on that success, I was thrilled to be asked by my new next-door neighbor, an active, educated 80-year-old woman, whether I could help her find a smallish, short-haired, female, house-trained adult or senior dog. I’m going to the shelter this afternoon to start the search!