Adoption Red Shirt

January 18, 2011
Up to my knees in bouncing, yapping dogs, my poopy-scooping was interrupted by a rapping on the window. "A lady wants to see a dog." A blue-shirt informed me before walking away. Great, I thought, struggling not to drop the poop while trying to leave the room without the dogs. Couldn't she have just shown the dog since I was doing her job?

As a red-shirt adoption manager at the Arizona Humane Society, Maricopa County's dog pound, my top priority was to assist Homo sapiens before canines and felines. It was the blue shirts duty to clean kennels. Although it wasn’t my favorite chore, I cleaned when there was no one else around, like this slow, Tuesday afternoon.

I found the lady in question in the outside kennels with her two children. She stood up, silently scrutinizing a particular kennel while her toddlers poked their fingers into the cage. "Can I help you?" I nearly shouted over the deafening barks as cheerfully as I could. The woman motioned into the cage and asked, almost inaudibly, "Can we see the white one?” There were four dogs in the kennel, all determined to be free. But the white, seven month old pit mix was the least excited to be separated from its cellmates. After five minutes of pointless coaxing, I lead the family to an empty meet-and-greet room with the scardy cat in my arms.

"Is this your first visit? Do you have other pets? What kind of dog are you looking for?" Chatter, my orientation had taught me, was the most efficient way to evaluate potential adopters. Our goal was to give every pet the most ideal match we could. To make the best match, it was my job to make sure these people were as right for the dog as the dog was for them. Information is vital.

But so are confrontations. In the tiny room, I placed the dog on the floor and stepped outside, giving the family some alone time. However, I did not leave; the window in the door gave me the perfect view of the scene. What I saw was not promising. The mother, disapproving and detached, watched young dog that was cowering from the rambunctious kids. It was time to take action.

"Sometimes," I explained, stepping inside to the rescue. "The dogs are afraid to leave their kennels. So we have to be nice to them and make them feel comfortable." I handed the oldest boy a treat from my apron to give to the dog. "All the excitement of the shelter really freaks them out. That’s why I come here and give them attention and take them for walks. That way they’re not as afraid.”

My plan worked. After a few moments the puppy timidly emerged from under the chair, sniffing the family members one by one. I stepped back out, letting them have another chance to get acquainted. This time the scene was much more engaging. Before I knew it, the mother motioned me inside and said they wanted to adopt.

I glowed. As I walked up to the front desk to help them with paperwork, the dog now excitingly leading the way on his leash, I could not help but feel proud. My work had not gone to waste, and with my help the family and dog had found each other. Being overworked had never been more rewarding.





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