You'd think pet adoption would be as simple as driving to a shelter, picking out a cuddly creature, filling out a form, paying an adoption fee, and bringing the happy bundle home. But now that I've decided to adopt a "rescue pet" I am beginning to understand why there are so many cats and dogs awaiting loving homes in our state.
Our family recently lost our beloved terrier to a coyote attack. I miss the patter of paws around the house and I no longer have someone to warm my lap at night. I miss having a canine companion in the car to run errands with me, and I now have to pick up stray morsels on the floor.
Knowing that his spirit would never be replaced, I decided to adopt a rescue as both a tribute to my little buddy and a way to put salve on my grief.
As difficult as that decision was, it was a piece of cake compared to the maze of adopting an abandoned pet. I successfully adopted a little girl from the former Soviet Union 15 years ago, and I'm honestly hard-pressed to say which process is more difficult.
Most rescues in the area are not at a central shelter, they're living in "foster homes", and you find them online. At www.petfinder.com you can search for pets by breed, size, age, and the distance. There are so many pleading pets it's overwhelming. After the weeks I've spent searching for a small, younger dog that will get along with kids and a good-natured cat, it seems to me that unwanted cats outnumber dogs by at least 4:1. Unwanted dogs tend to be pit bulls and older or special needs animals with conditions ranging from skin rashes to diabetes. Many have horrifying backgrounds, like the puppy who was tossed away in a trash bag.
After an exhaustive search, I identified a Maltese mix who was available for adoption through a group called Desperate House Dogs of Stamford. Now I know that the term "desperate" applies to the well-meaning souls who try to adopt from this organization. As with many local pet rescue groups, there is no phone number on the Web page, only an e-mail address. I dutifully e-mailed, asking if the Maltese was still available for adoption and requesting an application. No response.
I searched their page again several days later and finally found the application, which resembled a background check for a position at the CIA. I was asked questions ranging from whether my pets sleep in my bed to what brand of heartworm medication I use (I'm not kidding!). Weeks went by as I continued to stare at the sad-eyed Maltese. I e-mailed the phantom address again, still no reply.
Exasperated, I checked out the Westport branch of the Humane Society's page, where I found a poodle mix that seemed to fit the bill, AND there was actually a phone number that I could call to talk to a human being. My heart soared as someone picked up the phone and said the pet I was interested in had not yet been adopted. Then she told me he wasn't available for adoption at the moment due to "medical reasons". Other pets at the shelter were ruled out because they didn't mix well with kids and cats.
So the wait continues.
I have vowed that I will never buy a pet again from a store, given all the negative publicity about puppy mills and I can't afford to pay $1,500 to a breeder. I know there's a pet waiting for my family, but I wonder if I will ever be able to cut through the red tape to find him.
Laurie Cantillo's columns about New Canaan life appear each Sunday in New Canaan Patch.