Thursday, February 7, 2013

on using Petfinder to adopt Sprout

With Sprout's second birthday coming up next week, I thought I'd dedicate a few posts to the little fuzz ball who stole my heart. Today, I'm talking about what we went through to find the little guy. can be a bit more difficult than you think.

T and I talked about getting a dog and decided that if we found the "right" dog, we would both be 100% on board. Both of us grew up with dogs and love animals, so it was not a difficult thing to agree on, especially with our new house, complete with a sizable (and partially fenced) backyard. I made it practically a part-time job to check animal listings on, where I had heard quite a few success stories of adoptions.

Having grown up with a well-bred Bichon Frise, who was allergic to everything (including cats and certain types of grass) and therefore cost my parents a lot of money, I was not opposed to finding a lovable mutt from a shelter rather than going the breeder route. My requirements were not extreme: I wanted the dog to be less of a shedder (so not a dog that you could touch and have hair fall all over you) and somewhere around 30lbs. We did have to be a bit picky on personality though, because we knew our hypothetical pet would have to get along with both other dogs and children.

But application after application went in and I constantly heard back that the dog was already adopted, an adoption was pending, or we lived too far away. I started to get frustrated with the process. How was I supposed to adopt an animal in need if there were no animals to adopt?

I talked to a few breeders, thinking maybe we would go with a breeder instead of a shelter, but they wanted a lot of money for a puppy, there was no option for a slightly older dog, and those ASPCA commercials (Sarah MacLachlan, anyone?) made me feel guilty.

Eventually we found Maggie, a sweet-looking dark-haired mix who was under a year old and living in New Hampshire with a foster, a short road trip from our home. We were approved for her and had the home visit- where representatives, usually prior adopters, come to your home to make sure you actually have the space you say you do- and made the drive to see the little girl. She was so sweet, but bigger than I had anticipated, and she jumped- a lot. But still, I was ready to start shopping for her accessories as we drove home to talk about it. After a day or so, I realized that the combination of Maggie's jumping and her shedding were outside of our comfort zone, and our search continued.

And then one day I saw that a rescue group in Connecticut had 3 puppies and their mother, all available for adoption. There was a video with the puppies' descriptions, and Winter, Sprout, and Cookie (the pups) were adorable. One of the puppies (pointed out in the video as Sprout) picked up a stick and then tripped over it, and I was in love. Sprout was described in his write-up: "Sprout bounces when he walks and tries to bounce into your lap.  They are all lap pups who love to romp and play." 

Here is Sprout's 5-week old photo, taken at his foster's home.

Emails turned into an application and then reference checks, first with my childhood dog's vet and then with my best friend, T's brother-in-law, and others. Because we didn't already have a dog in the home, I was told that we probably would not be chosen for one of these puppies. But eventually (and not without tears, more emails, and lots of anticipation) we were, and we made arrangements for Sprout to be flown from Texas to Boston, where we would pick him up at the airport. I was so excited to meet him, and nervous that the first meeting would be when we were bringing him home.

Sprout at 12 weeks old, taken at his foster's home.

It sounds dramatic, but picking him up was an extremely memorable moment. We arrived at the cargo area of the airport and were taken into a huge warehouse, where there was a small crate on the floor, nothing else around it. The warehouse operator closed the massive garage door so that we could open the crate, and out peeked Sprout, a small, fluffy, timid pup. We took him out to a grassy area so we could get acquainted, and we took these first "family photos".

Sprout cared to explore more than he wanted to get to know me.

But he and T were best friends from the start.

This is one of my all-time favorite photos.

At home, exploring the backyard from a safe spot in the kitchen.

I found using to be a time-consuming process, and it could be frustrating (expected, due to the nature of what I was using it for!), but in the end, it was all worth it. I'm glad that the shelters put so much time and energy into adopting out their available animals to the right homes. Would I do it again? Yes, of course!

Check back next week for more!

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