Editor’s Note: Stephanie Kaloi is a contributor to Dogster’s sister SAY Media site, xojane.com. This article first ran on xoJane, but we’re rerunning it (with permission!) so you readers can comment on it.
A month and a half before we moved from Alabama to Oregon, my husband and son found two abandoned Pit Bull puppies at a playground. After asking friends and animal adoption agencies, we found a home for one of the puppies (the female) pretty quickly. We couldn’t find anyone to take the male, though, and because the shelter in our former city would have probably put him to sleep if no one adopted him, we brought him to Oregon with us and named him Zizi.
We made no long-term plans about the dog; we weren’t sure whether he would be a good fit for our family, and we were hesitant to officially say he was our pet. He was also born with some kind of nasty mite condition (he chewed all of the hair and most of the skin off of his hindquarters), and we took way more care of him than we’d thought we would.
We’re animal lovers by nature, and we couldn’t let Zizi suffer while he lived with us in a small apartment, so we started taking him to the vet. We ended up getting locked into a long, expensive treatment process — and the dog contracted two kinds of worms in the process.
He’s lived with us three months and has been to the vet more times than our other dog, who we’ve had for four and a half years. But even after deciding our 400-square-foot apartment is not a positive place for three humans and two dogs, we hung onto him while looking for a suitable home.
We contacted a few Pit Bull organizations in Portland, but they all turned us away, some saying they had no room. We met with confusion at the local Humane Society, which does take owner surrenders but said the dog wasn’t legally ours because we haven’t had him for 180 days. Then we went to a no-kill shelter, which said the dog is ours and it doesn’t take owner surrenders.
So we turned to Craigslist.
I know that the idea of listing an animal on Craigslist makes some people super anxious — and I totally understand why. I was really nervous about the idea, convinced that Zizi would end up with someone who’d harm him, but we were running out of options so we had to try. Even though Zizi is very sweet by nature and has never exhibited any kind of aggression, life gets frustrating quickly when a 3-year-old kid and a puppy share the same tiny playing space.
I listed Zizi and described all his quirks, including the good (lack of aggression toward animals and people, sweet temperament) and the not-so-good (mites). The first day, I only read e-mail responses but didn’t reply. About 40 or 50 came in pretty quickly, and it was a lot easier to sort everyone into “no” “maybe” and “yes” than I thought it would be. Here are the general guidelines I made up and followed:
1. Don’t charge a “rehoming fee.
Even though we weren’t sure he’d be with us forever, we’ve kept Zizi up to date on his vaccines and have treated his various parasites — combined with medical, food, and housing expenses (cleaning carpets, replacing chewed toys, and buying his kennel). We’ve invested at least $500 in less than five months. I can understand why some people ask for a rehoming fee, and I get that asking for a fee might weed out people who aren’t serious about taking care of an animal, but even though we had spent so much on the dog, it didn’t feel right for us to make money from him.
I repeatedly stated in the listing that we aimed to find someone who would be nice to Zizi and who would have the time to devote a lot of energy to him — we wanted to find someone who would love him, regardless of whether or not that person could pay something for him.
2. Be super picky if you want to.
Because Zizi is a Pit Bull and there are people out there who mistreat the breed, I wanted to be as confident as possible that Zizi would end up in a home with a family — not someone who wanted to breed or fight him. Even though the mite condition has been super annoying and expensive, it definitely has helped figure out who is interested in loving and taking care of Zizi and who can’t handle dealing with the potential expense and time suck. There was one response that simply stated, “I have another male Pit and he needs a friend,” and that was it — and this one immediately landed in my “no” pile. I don’t know whether the sender was well intentioned, but I had so many great responses that I could afford to turn him away.
3. Ask to meet the prospective owners.
The couple who is adopting Zizi is especially adorable: They were happy to meet us and Zizi a week before they planned to pick him up, so we could all see whether he was a good fit. In doing so, we were able to really get a reading on them and see whether we felt like the adoption would be a happy one for everyone. It turns out one of them is battling severe anxiety, and they were looking for a dog on the recommendation of his doctor. He’s able to be home all day with Zizi, and Zizi will be thrilled to cheer someone up — the fact that Zizi is going to be a service animal pretty much rocks my world. Considering everyone in our house has been pretty stressed since Zizi arrived (including Zizi — dude needs space), it feels awesome that he’ll be helping someone.
The best part about this is that we’re placing Zizi in a new home without feeling any guilt or like we’re abandoning him: We get our lives and space back, and he gets to live with someone who really wants him there all of the time and who has the space for him. The day my husband took Zizi to the Humane Society and the shelter was filled with tears (mine) and extreme guilt (both of us).
Shelters, no-kill or not, worried me because I hated the idea of Zizi cooped up in a kennel for most of the day, and there was no way we could just ditch him somewhere — it’s just not how we roll. As scary as the world of Craigslist can be, I’m glad it worked out for us, Zizi, and his soon-to-be new family.
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