As a vollie (volunteer) at the dog Refuge, I’ve so far not been privy to the process of how potential adopters meet their prospective new furry four-legged friends. True, I’ve watched such “dog meets” from afar, but only in passing. Usually while I’m out walking a Refuge dog and going past the Adoption (or Dog Meet) Yard, and the fact I have a dog on the other end of the lead means I have to move along quickly, before the dog inside the Yard notices and becomes reactive and thus spoils the Meet.
The Refuge has a couple of such Adoption Yards, for the purpose of adopters meeting dogs, as well as for dogs meeting new doggy friends. Anyone wanting to adopt from the Refuge is required to bring their existing pets to the Refuge for a Meet first, to gauge the compatibility of their animals with the Refuge dog.
Smaller animals, such as cats, rabbits, guinea pigs etc meet the Refuge dogs in a cage/crate in a room. In my 5 months at the Refuge I’ve witnessed a few cat meets, a rabbit meet and even a chicken meet(!) But dog meets are held in the large Adoption Yards, which are essentially fenced off areas about 30 x 10 m.
Just the other day, I was very fortunate to witness a Dog Meet happening. I was waiting for the bus across the road from the Adoption Yard, and the bus was very, very late. I noticed a family and their Kelpie dog walking towards the Adoption Yard with a member of Staff, then entering the Yard and shutting the gate behind them, and I knew a Dog Meet was about to happen. Just before I left the Refuge earlier, I’d spoken to the young lad leading the dog, and found out that his family were looking for a new playmate for their dog Chaz (dog names have been changed here to protect the family’s and the Refuge’s privacy). I also knew the dog they were interested in, Delia.
So, when Delia (also a Kelpie) appeared a minute later, led by another member of Staff, and my bus was still nowhere to be seen, I got excited because I was about to witness a Dog Meet in progress. Granted, my vantage point was perhaps 20m away, (apologies for the fuzziness of the photos below), but at least I was able to make these dogservations, noted down as they happened.
1. Family with Kelpie Chaz on lead enter Yard with member of Staff A. Staff A shuts Yard gate and takes Chaz’s lead.
2. Staff B leads Refuge dog Delia on lead to Yard. Staff A, on the inside, leads Chaz to fence. Staff B, still outside, leads Delia to fence. Both dogs are allowed to see each other through the fence separating them.
3. Chaz and Delia both have gently wagging tails and appear amenable towards an introduction.
4. Staff A leads Chaz away from fence towards middle of Yard.
5. Staff B opens Yard gate and leads Delia into Yard. Walks Delia towards Staff B and Chaz.
6. Chaz and Delia cautiously meet each other sideways, still on leads. Their “Sniff and Greet” ritual is brief, but apparently amicable.
7. Staff A unclips Chaz’s lead and allows him to run free in the Yard. Chaz does a quick “pee mail” against a tree, then returns to Delia. He does a play bow towards Delia.
8. Staff B unclips Delia’s lead. She’s off like a shot, and both dogs do an energetic parallel run in the Yard. Then suddenly both stop and greet each other again, side to side, tails wagging. Then off they trot, to explore various nooks and crannies together.
9. Chaz’s family recall Chaz to their side. Delia comes along too. Delia puts her head over Chaz’s shoulder, showing dominance. Chaz seems fine with that. Delia then places her paw over Chaz’s head, and he’s fine with that too. Surprisingly, it’s Delia that is the more dominant dog. As if to confirm this fact, Delia puts her head over Chaz’s other shoulder. Again, Chaz submits happily. Family and Staff appear delighted that this is going so well.
10. The body language of both dogs is relaxed. I observed no sign of aggression, no tension, just 2 dogs making friends and having a little play together.
11. Staff A clips Chaz’s lead back on. Staff B clips Delia’s lead back on. Staff A leads Chaz out of the Yard, and shuts the gate, leaving Delia and her prospective family in the Yard.
12. Staff B unclips Delia’s lead again and lets her run freely about the Yard. This part of the Meet is so the Family can assess Delia’s suitability as a family pet, whether she would fit into their personal lifestyles. Delia seems relaxed and unconcerned, and willingly goes and takes treats from the Family. She sits on cue and submits to being petted. She even comes when called.
13. The Meet is now concluded. Delia back on lead, everyone leaves the Yard, to continue the adoption process back in the Refuge’s Office.