Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How to Find Your Dream Dog or Cat

By Julia Williams

“I’m sweet and sassy, very loyal, loving and playful, and a great kisser. I enjoy long walks and cuddling.”

That sounds like a profile you might see on an online dating service, doesn’t it? Well, it is… except that in this case, the one looking for her “perfect match” happens to have four legs, long, silky fur and a wagging tail. Oh, and she gets along with other dogs, and cats too!

The Oregon Humane Society in Portland has developed an innovative online service called Find Your Match, which helps people find the pet of their dreams. Borrowing a page from online dating services, the OHS utilizes a database with an extensive search function that makes the pet adoption process easier and better – for potential adopters and shelter staff alike.

This feature lets people search for dogs and cats that have the physical characteristics and personality traits they desire in an animal companion. “It's a pretty unique feature,” says David Lytle, the shelter’s public affairs manager. “We are the only Humane Society I know of that has this matching feature implemented so extensively.”

When a dog or cat arrives at the shelter, a staff member photographs and weighs them, and enters the information into an online database. Potential adopters can surf through the available animals, view their photos and read vital statistics and other pertinent information. Alternately, you can search by criteria such as male/female, breed, age, activity level, and whether they would be good with kids and/or other animals. If you don’t find a match, the shelter will even email you when an animal arrives that might be a good fit for your family.

If you don't live near Portland, you can still use the ideas from the Find Your Match program to help you find your dream dog or cat. Look at the types of questions it asks, and write down a list of things for you and your family to consider before deciding to adopt an animal. Think about such things like:

* Does your physical activity level match the animal’s needs?
* Do you have the time and money required to care for a pet?
* If you have other pets, will they get along with another dog or cat?
* Do you have enough room for a large dog?
* If you have kids, which breeds are child friendly?

It’s important to meet your potential new pet in person before you make this lifelong commitment to responsible pet ownership. Just because a particular breed of dog is known for certain traits, doesn’t mean that every dog in the breed will have them. And don’t become so smitten with a sweet face that you fail to consider the animal’s other traits.

“We always tell people you need to know yourself, know what your own lifestyle is,” Lytle says. “You might be seduced by a young border collie that is the cutest thing you've ever seen, but if you have knee or hip problems, and your idea of exercise is just one walk around the block, you and the border collie are not going to be happy.”

Whether you use the Find Your Match service or develop your own method for finding your dream dog or cat, it’s important to carefully consider all of your options and needs before making a final decision. Doing your homework before you bring home that fluffy bundle of joy will greatly improve your chances of living “happily ever after.” And isn’t that what we all want?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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