Looking for a Soul Mate Instead of a Forever Home
I am starting to look for a new dog to add to our pack. I lost my Butter Bean about 2 years ago to a tragic stroke, and a bit over a year ago lost Rocco to cancer – leaving us at just two dogs in our pack. As some of you know, I met Sea last year at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, CA, and she is well-loved (to say the least) by our human and canine family.
I am lucky – I work in this field and can likely “try out” a dog in my home. As an animal behaviorist, I know bringing an adult dog into my home will likely bring a few surprises – some of them welcome, and others that may make a bond between one of the human or non- human members of the family a challenge.
It will come as no surprise that I am a fan of behavior assessments – as they give us a snapshot of behavior and help to set realistic expectations. But no assessment can tell us everything… and the interactions between individuals are such unique and complex situations that we can not possibly know the outcomes of every interaction.
I am looking for a dog who in the Meet Your Match world is a socially or externally motivated orange or green dog, who is playful with other dogs and comfortable with a bossy older dog. And as I plan to travel with the new dog (we are a fairly mobile family), I need a compact model… I am excited that I have resources in shelters around the country where I can find a dog who matches my expectations.
However… I want more – I want more for myself and most importantly, more for the clients walking in your doors. I want less judgment when a match does not work out as expected… the Satisfaction Guaranteed philosophy used by Humane Society of Boulder Valley during the 2010 ASPCA $100K Challenge and beyond, which we are further assessing in 2 shelter laboratories, is a great example of this change in philosophy. Yes – we would love forever homes… but just as or maybe even more important, we should want the folks who come to our doors to feel as if they have adopted their canine or feline soul mate.
I would love to challenge you to conduct some programs focused on this shift in philosophy – we shelter professionals get the luxury of taking dogs or cats home to ‘foster’ or even bring them to our offices to spend the day. What if you let your potential adopters try pets out in their home? Martha Kalina, when at Knox County Humane Society in Maine, started a sleep-over program to make the decision-making process easier for potential adopters. Maybe this can be a fee-based service your organization can provide… or maybe you have other ideas of how to help get more pets home – and more folks in our doors… I may even have some grant funds to conduct some research around your innovation!