Still searching

By Mir
September 9, 2009

Me and Petfinder are BFFs right now. Except that we’re actually more like frenemies, because I spend hours with it, but really, Petfinder DRIVES ME INSANE. There don’t seem to be any sort of rules or regulations about what information people put out there about the animals. So while one listing will tell you that Riley is precisely two-and-three-quarters-years old and enjoys a nice chicken-smoked rawhide in the late afternoon after a cup of food at breakfast, a nice 47-minutes lunchtime walk (wherein he is a perfect gentleman on the leash) and an afternoon nap curled up in front of a television showing Spanish soap operas, another listing says that Sugar is a dog and she costs $200.

It’s maddening.

Add to that the fact that entering your zip code seems to have very little influence on how close to you any given listing is (Petfinder is POSITIVE I want to drive to South Carolina for a dog; I have no idea why), and you’ve got a situation where I spend a lot of time on their site, but also a lot of time muttering things that are less than complimentary.

This past weekend I found a dog that looked like a possibility, but given that it was at a rescue about 90 minutes away, I called, first. I had a lovely chat with the woman who runs the place, and after some discussion she said she had another dog whose listing wasn’t up on Petfinder yet that we might want to see. Excellent! I said we’d drive out and have a look at both of them.

Otto and I went for a nice ride in the country and eventually arrived at a house with an electric fence and a small menagerie gathered within its yard. You know a rescue is operating for the love of the animals when the owners have five dogs, themselves, and three of them are the size of small ponies. (Two Irish wolfhounds and a greyhound, all three of whom seemed convinced they were lapdogs.) The owner put her dogs inside and opened the pen with the dogs we’d come to see.

A swarm of dogs swelled towards us, and suddenly Otto and I were being mauled with kisses and scratches and other begging for loving from this tiny army. The dog we’d come to see was nice enough, but not terribly interested in us. The other dog that had been suggested wouldn’t even come near us—she was happy to play with the other dogs, but clearly in need of a LOT of rehabilitation to get to where she’ll trust people.

And all the while as we try to check out these two dogs, three smelly puppies who seemed to understand that I was allergic to them made it their mission to lick me to death or climb inside my purse, whichever came first. They were adorable. And stinky. And not the right dog.

BUT there was also this ADORABLE shih tzu mix who was a total love, and the only dog in the pack who didn’t bark AT ALL, and she would come up to one and then the other of us and wag and nudge and happily flop over as soon as you pet her, and if you stopped to pay attention to another dog she just waited patiently for a bit and finally gave another nudge and then got all happy again as soon as you paid any attention to her.

“I don’t remember seeing the listing for this one,” I said to the owner.

“That’s because she’s not available,” she said. “She’s being picked up tomorrow.”

So then I really TRIED to ignore her. I did. I pointedly focused on the other dogs. I even pet the stinky puppies. But she was always right there by my feet, wagging, looking hopeful and totally adorable.

Finally I cracked. I picked her up and cradled her like a baby in my arms, figuring this would annoy her and after a second I could put her down and she would stop bugging me. Instead she wagged, SMILED AT ME (I swear!) and licked my face. And Otto had to stop me from running for the car with her.

We left our number and asked to be called if the other adoption fell through; it didn’t and although I’m heartbroken I’m sure she’s in a great home living a wonderful life. I mean, she is, right? Surely she is.

Since then I’ve been moaning to Otto about how I met the perfect dog and she went to someone else and I’ll never find our dog and WOE, life is terrible and unfair. I’m surprised he hasn’t taken me down to the pond and drowned me by now. And inbetween mourning and rending my garments I’m all GO TEAM SHIH TZU and searching Petfinder and still hoping against hope that there’s ANOTHER perfect shih tzu out there for us.

This morning a new listing popped up for an adorable little guy over an hour away. After calling the shelter and quizzing them on him, I decided to take the 3ish hours this excursion would require and go check him out. On the phone they were all, “Oh my gosh, he’s SO CUTE, we all just love him!” and I realized he’d probably go quickly if I waited until the weekend. So off I went.

I drove. And drove. And tried not to think about The Perfect Dog Who Got Away. And drove some more. And finally got there. And they brought him out, and lo, he was totally adorable, just like they’d said. He was also NOT the shih tzu poodle mix he was listed as… he was a shih tzu something mix, but no poodle. Hmmm.

I took his leash and went and sat down with him to get acquainted. He bounded around and was happy to be handled and spent a lot of time trying to get at the kitten someone else had out, and then further back inside, a dog started to bark.

And then THIS dog started to bark.

Not even really so much bark, I suppose, as, BLEAT. If someone had crossed a goat and an airhorn and given it just a smidge of helium? That’s the sound this dog made.

Over. And over. And over again.

“Wow, he’s kind of mouthy,” I said to one of the workers there.

“Yeah, he’s always got something to say!” he replied, cheerfully.


But at least he was straining to get off the leash and foaming at the mouth, while he did it.

I thanked the staff for their time after about ten minutes; in that time, he didn’t calm down at all, and the constant yapping had me wanting to stick a fork in my eardrum. I bid the pup goodbye and got back in my car and drove home.

It’s a process; I can’t think of it as three hours wasted, but as three hours closer to finding our dog.

But the next time I go on such a journey, I’m bringing earplugs. And Excedrin.


  1. Katie in MA

    And chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

    (Also, are you sure you don’t want to borrow one of my *adorable* children? She’ll lick you and love you and run around with Monkey and sit and let Chickie read to her! A match made in heaven, I think!)

  2. Summer

    Your dog will come, I promise you.

    I last used Petfinder over 6 years ago, and it doesn’t sound like it’s improved much since then. The best way I found to use it was to search not for a specific dog, but for local rescues that handled the types of dog I wanted. I then emailed the rescues, explained my situation and my desires, and let them tell me if they had a dog that might be right. And lo, one of the rescues had exactly the right dog, The Best Dog Ever.

    So I’m certain that now that these rescue groups have met you, sooner or later they’ll get a dog and say “this is the right dog for Mir!” It WILL happen.

  3. Brigitte

    It sounds like Summer’s Petfinder procedure may be the way to go. Erg. I hate how all the ones you don’t/can’t take still haunt you afterwards!

  4. Amy

    When we were looking on Petfinder for a cat, we found The Perfect Cat. But then The Perfect Cat was adopted before we even went to see her. I was very sad. A couple of weeks later, another cat popped up on Petfinder at a shelter an hour away. We decided to drive the hour to see the cat. When we got there, we were instantly swarmed by the cats starved for love. But the cat we went to see did not give us the time of day. I wasn’t sure. I wanted a cat who interacted with us. My husband convinced me to take him another room. He was so scared, he hid under the table most of the time. I knelt down to see him. He still didn’t seem interested. Again, I told my husband I wasn’t sure. Maybe he is just scared, my husband said (while really thinking, if we drove an hour to see this cat, we better be taking him home!) Just when I was about to give up, the cat jumped up on my lap, gave a little meow, jumped back down, and hid back under the table. I knew he was trying to send me a sign – please adopt me. Please take me out of this madhouse. We adopted him. That was six years ago. And he is not shy at all like he was in the shelter. In fact, he is kinda like a dog, because he follows me everywhere I go. He turned out to be super playful, and loves to cuddle.

    Maybe it is different with dogs, but I think some of the shy animals are not so shy in a different setting. Don’t give up – you’ll find the dog that was meant to be a part of your family.

  5. Kris

    I agree with the PetFinder experience. We were looking for another shih tzu after our beloved one passed away after 15 years and I was determined to get a rescued shih tzu mix. It was very difficult and all that kept coming up were large black dogs (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We finally found someone that had bred their 2 in-home shih tzus and got our girl Trixie. I can highly recommend shih tzu’s for kids. I have 4 kids and she is sturdy and has a great temperament around kids. And they are just so darn cute. Good luck!

  6. patty

    oh lord, dogs bark. are you sure you want a dog?

    [Ed note: Dogs bark, but not all of them bark incessantly and/or at a pitch that makes you pray for deafness.]

  7. Neptune

    Another small bit of dog-whisperer advice, Mir… dogs do not present their true colors until they have had a chance to settle. The barkers sometimes completely stop barking. Sometimes the biters stop biting. The silent ones sometimes turn into sirens in the middle of the night…and sometimes the sweet, snuggly ones start snarling and nipping.

    The only way to tell if a dog is right for your family is to know you have the patience to share your life with a dog who isn’t exactly like what you expected it to be…. and to provide it with the consistancy and patience it needs in order to be who it really is. They are so much like children in that way.

    Here’s to hoping that you don’t find your perfect dog…but that your perfect dog finds you. ;)

  8. kate c.w.

    I agree with a previous comment that dogs may act differently with a pack of their peers swarming around than they might act at home with you. I adopted a full-grown standard poodle (big, excitable guy who was totally spoiled by previous owner — not abused at all, just had no discipline) and it took nearly a year for him to settle down and form habits at home we could all live with. Once he formed those habits, though, he held them consistently.

  9. Kristie

    Petfinder isn’t the only game in town. You can also visit Many government run shelters use this platform and it’s updated hourly. There’s not a lot of information but at least you can pick shelters that are close to you.

    Also don’t forget Craigslist. People try to give animals way by the dozen every single day on there. Also,

  10. jami

    We have two shih tzus, and their personalities couldn’t be more different. One is a princes (with a bark much like you’ve described) and the other is big dog in a small body (complete with big dog bark, and aggressiveness – yay!) And neither of them demonstrated their full personalities until long after they’d come to live with us. They are generally great dogs though, and I whole heartedly recommend them – even the ones with wierd annoying barks. You get used to the quirks, for the most part, so long as the general personality is ok.

    And did you know that Stephen Spielberg had shihtzus, and that’s why ewoks look like shihtzus?

  11. kat

    I just wanted to add that my (hypoallergenic) cairn terrier barks so infrequently that it’s not an exaggeration to say he goes days without barking. He was our first baby and is lively and active and FAT as the day is born. He’s hardy enough to put up with my two small children, but cuddly enough to curl up in my lap when the offspring have gone to bed. We got him from a breeder here in N. Carolina, but petfinder would tell you that the drive is no big deal. :)

  12. Carla Hinkle

    So is Super still roaming the neighborhood?????

    [Ed. note: Nope, we never saw him again after that first week.]

  13. Rachel

    I agree that Petfinder can be difficult. Some of the cute little animals (such as Shih Tzu, or in our case Maltese) get adopted quickly, so they never make it onto the website. My advice is to check in frequently at your local shelter and they often will let you know when an animal like the one you are interested in has become available. That’s how we found our dog, because every time we went to the shelter to see a specific animal listed on Petfinder, it was already gone. We just stopped looking online so we wouldn’t get our hopes up. Also, our dog was hiding and shy in the presence of the other animals at the shelter, but after being the center of attention at home after one weekend, she is a little social butterfly who loves everyone.

  14. Megumi

    I feel your pain – I thought we found “the perfect dog” and while I was trying to convince the husband that it was “the perfect dog” someone went and snatched him up. Mixed feelings of joy for the dog (because he is probably really happy with his forever family) and sadness (why isn’t the forever family with MEEEEE?) abound.

    Petfinder has been kind in leading me to a great rescue organization, although my experience with the description of actual animals has been similar to yours. Thinking good thoughts for you in your search…

  15. Megan

    We had the same problem with PetFinders. They just KNEW I wanted a dog in Minnesota. I live in Arkansas. Don’t be discouraged. We did not find our dog on PetFinders, but we did find a very loving, sweet dog who has no manners but we LOVE very, very much at the pound.

  16. Lisa

    Still have my vote in there for a greyhound. Lap dog – check. (never mind the fact that they may weigh 75 lbs.) Hypoallergenic – sorta check. (remember, I have severe asthma and do just fine with four) Gentle and easygoing with kids – big check. Run around in the yard – check. (Just watch those gates. But I don’t know of any escape artists or fence jumpers.) Barkers – not really. (I have one who will, given reason but even if you ring the doorbell, they won’t bark. They run to the door so you can pet them – because of course, you came to visit them!) If you have more specific questions, send me any email. I’d be happy to answer them.

  17. pam

    Reading your tales of woe makes me feel SO lucky with my two dogs. I had them sent (flown) to me from a rescue in Florida (to Michigan) sight unseen.

    They were 8 weeks old and are now 6. They’ve been perfect since the day they arrived and really saved my life after my husband died.

    I’d never realized how lucky I got with them though. They were meant to be mine I guess and just flew to me rather than my going to them.

  18. Isa

    Boy, do I feel your pain. The local rescue lady brought a (apparently absolutely lovely most of the time) dog to my house last night for a meet-and-greet/trial run. He promptly peed on: couch, coffee table, wall, tote bag, shoes, and chair. Then he freaked out at my little terrier mix, lunging and squealing at her until he had to be dragged outside.

    Guess we’ll keep looking…

  19. Becky

    I bet you’ll be able to click just right with another dog. It will happen when you least expect it. When my family decided to get a pair of kittens, my brother was positive that he would only settle for an orange kitten. The cat only had black and gray ones. We promised him that we were just going to see the kittens (another one of those lengthy drives), and that was just it.

    When we got there, he was handed a gray one, and they instantly fell in love with each other. The kitten snuggled up against his chest and sat in the palm of his hand the entire time. (Meanwhile, the one I was handed made several almost successful attempts at escaping.) We took the pair home with us, and all has been well.

    ….I just wanted to talk about the cats because I miss them now that I’m back at school.

  20. Megan

    Are there any local shih-tzu rescue groups? They might be worth a call. Many breeds have a rescue group that re-homes dogs for various reasons and just possibly they would know of mixes… I don’t know if they would. When we had to rehome our beloved dog (horrible story – NOT the dog’s fault nor ours just… circumstances) we went to the breed rescue people and they were fantastic – found him a loving home we could really trust.

    Sigh. You know you’re totally feeding my dog-hunger at the moment!

  21. Karen This breeder is in the greater Atlanta area! I’de give her a call and tell her your plight.

  22. Joleen

    Petfinder also thought that I really wanted to go to South Carolina for a dog… and I’m in New Hampshire! Petfinder also thought Tennessee, Michigan, and Pennsylvania where good options. I fell in love with several dogs in Pennsylvania (that couldn’t be adopted out of state anyways).

    In the end I got my girl from my local Humane Society which is within walking distance of my house, but she is a rescue from Alabama.

  23. Karishma

    If someone had crossed a goat and an airhorn and given it just a smidge of helium? That’s the sound this dog made. –> bwahahahaha you are hilarious

    hint: sometimes when the locations that turn up on petfinder make no sense, it’s b/c they’re willing to run transport. our dog turned up a few states over, and i couldn’t figure out why it was turning up on my searches until i realized it was b/c the shelter will run the dogs up and down the east coast. so we were able to pick him up 1/2 hour from home. score!

  24. Nicki

    Oh, Mir, your perfect puppy is out there. It will happen. And with your determination and dedication, it’ll be soon. Remember, when you least expect it…

  25. Ladybug Crossing

    The right dog will come along when it’s the right time… Trust me. I know this… Remember how we got Zeb? Hair dresser dropped him off on a Sunday – a free dog. And he is perfect!

  26. Jodi

    My stepdaughter got a shih tzu from a rescue. I call him The Brick for two reasons. One, because he looks tiny but weighs 15 pounds. Two, because he is mellow to the point that sometimes you forget that he is sitting right there.

  27. Tammy

    I agree with Summer, your dog will find you. Promise.

  28. MomCat

    Reminded me of the song “Isn’t it Ironic?” and the lyric about meeting the perfect man, then meeting his beautiful wife.

  29. Charise

    i have bad allergies and have never been an animal person. but the only dog i ever liked enough to snuggle up with was my soon-to-be-husband’s college roomie’s dog – who happened to be a shih tzu poodle mix. he knows the only way i’ll ever agree to a dog is it’s one of those!

  30. Jan

    Petfinder’s search function has always sucked, as far as I can tell. I just figured out which places were near me and then sorted based on those places, one at a time. (That sentence makes sense in my head, but I’m not sure it does in print. Such is life.)

    No, what really got to me about PetFinder was that when we were looking for a dog in 2005, we saw some that we recognized from when we were looking for a dog in 2003. That just made me so sad. And want to scoop them all up and hug them and kiss them and call them Lenny.

  31. Tracy

    I’m still feeling the loss of Super. I hope he’s doing ok. My mom had a shih tzu and they are precious dogs. Not all bark but really, that’s what dogs do. My papillons talk up a storm when I get home. We have our hello’s and then it’s all quiet. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I’m just sayin’…barking really isn’t that bad- UNLESS, I’m trying to sleep.

  32. Stacy

    Someone may have already mentioned this, but there is an organization in Atlanta, Atlanta Pet Rescue, that is a really great place to look for pets. We too lost what we thought we the “perfect dog”, but thanks to Atlanta Pet Rescue, we now have a truly perfect dog (for us anyway).

  33. Becky

    My husband and I put over 1000 miles on the car doing just what you described, visiting one shelter and then another in search of the right dog for us. In the end it was all worth it and our shelter dog ended up being the best dog EVAH. You will certainly have success in the end.

    As a thought, the strange sounding bark coming from the Shih Tzu could have been caused by a case of kennel cough which is completely treatable and very common in shelter dogs.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest