The PAWS Chicago Adoption Center
by Betsy Storm | May 01, 2012
Where Pets and People Fall in Love
PAWS Chicago’s Adoption & Humane Center welcomes all with a contemporary yet rustic décor. The open environment is a metaphor for the new era of sheltering that distinguishes PAWS Chicago. When the Center opened in 2007, it helped usher in a seismic change in animal adoption. Sadly, even now, many shelters are dingy, loud and unwelcoming. Animals are crowded into small cages; they’re not exposed to natural light or the out of doors; the surroundings aren’t pristine; and they sorely lack human interaction.
Conversely, PAWS Chicago’s state of-the-art environment was designed to accord animals the dignity, respect and healthy conditions they deserve. Dogs and cats reside in suites rather than cages to ensure a quiet, relaxed environment. To eliminate disease transmission, a seven-ton HVAC unit supplies fresh air continuously.
Dogs are walked several times daily and benefit, weather permitting, from rooftop exercise. Inside, they cavort in an ample open play area. Cats bask in lots of petting and lap-sitting and spend their time in areas designed with plentiful perches. Special accommodations include private “condos” for bashful felines and a senior cat environment equipped with ramps and climbing areas to suit their more limited mobility.
Canines lounge in cozy comfort and often in pairs as they anticipate play times and snuggles with a host of skilled volunteers. Because PAWS Chicago is fortunate to have 5,000 devoted volunteers, every animal receives individual attention.
By the time cats and dogs arrive at the Adoption Center from PAWS Chicago’s Rescue & Recovery Center in Little Village, they have received vaccinations, medical exams and treatment for illnesses or diseases. They’ve also been spayed or neutered, and dogs are microchipped. Looking and feeling good, these pets are prepared to meet their public, hoping for an ideal owner.
Upon arrival at the Adoption Center, adopters complete a computerized Meet Your Match survey. (See story on page 23.) Next, they view the animals, weighing in on which ones they want to meet individually. After the options are narrowed to the animal of desire, adopters meet with specially trained adoption counselors.
These volunteers engage them in a wide-ranging conversation about pet ownership, an individual’s or a family’s lifestyles, whether the pet they’ve chosen is the optimal choice for their household and the importance of training. Before pets and their people depart on that memorable trip home together, staff and volunteers assure the new dog and cat owners that guidance from PAWS Chicago’s experts is only a phone call or an e-mail away.
Perhaps most important, all animals receive a life long commitment from PAWS Chicago, providing a safety net to ensure that they will always be cared for should anything happen to their adoptive families.
Meet Your Match
Delve Deeply to Reveal Your Ideal Companion
Too many of us have been there: A well-intentioned friend fixed us up on a blind date that resulted in a less than storybook ending. One only hopes the aftermath of such a fractured pairing was no more than a few hours wasted, with no long lasting impact.
But now, consider a far more enduring matchmaking scenario – one that will color your days, enliven your nights and provide entertainment and affection for years to come – selecting the perfect pet for you.
Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but good looks aren’t the major consideration when making a life-changing decision about which pet to hang out with over a string of gorgeous spring afternoons by the lake. Specially-trained adoption counselors and others at PAWS Chicago realize that it’s easy to become enamored with a dog or cat that, in truth, may not be appropriate for a person’s prior experience with pets, living quarters, energy levels or aspects of her household operation. The PAWS adoption procedure is designed to guide adopters in surpassing the good intentions that usually are the basis of their wish to bring home a homeless pet by asking questions and to understand their expectations – both of themselves and of PAWS team members and volunteers.
To help people on their quest for the perfect pooch make reasoned choices, the initial step at the Adoption Center is completion of a survey called “Meet Your Match™ (MYM). It’s a time-tested program developed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to assist individuals in the first step toward creating optimal, long-lasting relationships with their dogs. Adopters complete the survey before meeting available dogs. Based on their answers, individuals are assigned color-coded tags: Green represents high energy; orange signifies a middle ground; and purple suggests a lower-energy companion.
Adopters carry these colorful markers while walking through Dog Town, and ever-observant volunteers help match prospective adopters with dogs who meet their preferred traits and temperaments. (Puppies are not assessed and therefore do not have a canine-ality assignment.)
“Meet Your Match is a great gauge, and when people respond honestly to the questions, it works,” says Susan Wallace, Adoption Center Director. She adds that the survey is a valuable information-gathering tool that enables PAWS to identify adopter preferences and adopters to approach the selection of a pet with a good amount of realistic information literally at their fingertips. “When we see disparities,” says Susan, “that’s an opportunity for discussion at any point along the path to adoption.”
What’s Your Canine-ality ?
- Couch Potato: need we say more?
- Constant Companion: desires to give and receive affection; a low maintenance pooch
- Teacher’s Pet: versatile, loves to learn, relishes entertaining encounters
- Wallflower: charming, shy and sweet
- Busy Bee: playful, curious and trusting
- Goofball: happy, always up for a good romp and socially motivated
- Life of the Party: fun, interactive and on the move
- Go-getter: thrives on a “let’s go” lifestyle
- Free Spirit: intelligent, independent, usually well-behaved when proper attention is paid