Watching the two dogs playfully romping around the yard and showering each other with wet kisses, it’s hard to believe that less than one year ago, Cheetoh, a handsome one-year-old Greyhound mix, was a timid, cowering dog with behavioral troubles that threatened to keep him homeless forever.
“When he arrived at PAWS, Cheetoh was extremely fearful around new people,” says PAWS Animal Care Lead Michelle Kulej. “He had most likely experienced a great deal of trauma or abuse, which made him terribly nervous, especially around men.”
Prospective adopters often overlooked Cheetoh because of his anxiety and skittish behavior. Like other animals with unique traits or challenging behaviors, Cheetoh was not high on the list of those seeking to adopt a new family pet. Nonetheless, Kulej saw Cheetoh’s potential and knew that sooner or later, the right person would come along.
“There is absolutely a perfect match and a perfect person for every animal in the shelter,” says Kulej. “It’s just a matter of finding them.”
Many factors can make companion animals like Cheetoh seem “less adoptable”—breed, age, behavior and medical issues can all play a part in a particular cat or dog spending more time in the shelter waiting for their forever home. Bonded pairs, seniors, shy pets and animals with minor medical conditions often spend twice as long in the shelter environment.
The staff at PAWS has to get creative about helping these animals put their best paw forward, and most importantly, they have to play matchmaker.
“I have a sixth-sense for what makes a good match, and I usually know when that perfect person or family walks through the door,” says Kulej. “I try to steer folks toward a match that will be in the best interest of the animal, but will also be good for the adopter too. I want to set them all up for success as much as possible.”
If there is a medical issue, or hesitance on the adopter’s part about a particular breed, Kulej encourages people to do their own research before adopting.
“I encourage them to talk to their veterinarian and do their homework. I try to provide as many resources and suggestions as I can. If they are still interested, you know it’s a good fit.”
When a potential match for Cheetoh walked through the door, Kulej knew immediately that it was meant to be. Cheetoh’s adopter, Collette Adams, knew it too.
“Cheetoh was timid,” recalls Adams, “but when we got into the visiting room, he ran right over and let me pet his head. I took one look at his huge, beautiful eyes and thought, ‘yes, he’s mine.’”
It was also love at first sight for Cheetoh and Adams’ dog, Emma. “The two dogs met, and immediately began playing like long lost pals.”
With a stable and secure home, a loving guardian, and a canine companion to give him confidence and encouragement, both Adams and Kulej knew that this was exactly the home for which Cheetoh had been waiting.
“We’re committed to getting him through his fear, and working to build his confidence,” says Adams. “It’s just a matter of being patient enough to get through it.”
Adams also recognizes that caring for a dog like Cheetoh is not for everyone.
“It can seem daunting and scary to take on an animal with issues, be they slight or severe,” says Adams, “but if you live your life normally, they just work themselves in.”
Cheetoh's shyness caused him to be overlooked by many adopters, until the right person came along and took a chance on him