You are ready for a new family member and have made the decision to shop to adopt a rescue dog. Congratulations! This is a big step. However, if you have taken a look online at our available dogs or on, finding the right fit for your home can seem impossible. How do you know that the feeling you get when you look at a dogs photo online is an accurate measure of how good they will fit in you home? You can’t. (Shopping for a cat? Check out The Mew.)

Lucky for you, we are here to take the mystery out of finding a rescue dog that will fit like the perfect puzzle piece into your existing home, regardless of where you shop to adopt. The Internet is great for research, however intimate person-dog relationships start in person. You’ve got to actually go and walk down the aisles.

Which leads us to Step One: Go to an animal shelter. This is easy right? You’ll need to find out where your local shelters are first. If you are in Santa Barbara, you are very lucky because the three biggest shelters are all right next to each other on Overpass Rd, just off of the Patterson exit. You can hit all three in one afternoon. Next!

Love at First Sight

Now, here is the tricky part. We are asking you to throw out your list of qualities that your perfect dog must have. Do not have colors or breeds in mind, do not even ask the staff at the front desk which dogs are good with children, or other dogs. Of course, if you have a size restriction at your home we won’t tell you to look at all dogs big and small. However, we want you to see which dogs you actually make a connection with. As you walk down the aisle, you may find that one pair of eyes speaks to you more than any of the others. Had you only looked at the dogs on paper, you may have been blinded to that feeling.

Here at the Santa Barbara Humane Society, we try our best to get people to just go out and see if those connections are there before we answer any questions. Because, the “perfect” dog on paper isn’t necessarily the dog that speaks to you. You will be the person taking care of this dog for the rest of their lives: feeding, cleaning up potential accidents, buying toys for, and paying for vet visits.

If that connection is not there, then the years to come will not be as meaningful and rewarding. Getting a dog just because they tick all of the boxes is settling! Don’t settle. You want the Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy and Toto, The Call of the Wild’s Buck and John Thorton, and Harry Potter’s Hagrid and Fang epic level of love and companionship.

First Date

Moving on, you now have a couple of names of dogs that touched your soul as you walked down the aisles. It’s time to get them out of their kennels and meet with them in a normal (we try, at least) environment. When you are in the play yard with a candidate, remember that just like humans, dogs are not always going to immediately be your Best Friend Forever. This does not mean that there isn’t something there. Go with your gut. A dog that seems like it’s ignoring you now could still be The One: she just needs to see you a couple more times before she is yours, heart and soul.

After meeting with the dog, it’s finally the time that we suggest that you ask your questions. If you feel like you have made a connection, then the biggest and most important box has been ticked, but you do still have to tick all the other boxes, like making sure that this dog gets along with a dog you may already own. In this case, at the Santa Barbara Humane Society, we will schedule a dog introduction to make sure that everyone will get along on neutral territory before you take Puppers home.

How to Avoid Heartbreak

You walked through the aisles, you made deep eye contact, you visited, you loved each other, but now it comes crashing down: This dog chases cats, and Mr. Flufferbutter needs only cat-friendly dogs.

It’s hard to say goodbye, but just like your high school sweet heart; this dog will eventually find The One. Just because it was not you does not mean you have to pity them. We truly believe that things don’t work out for a reason. The perfect match will come for both you and this special dog. Your heart might ache a little, but it won’t break- we promise.

Now that you are prepared to ditch the list and make yourself open to real, in-person connections, we wish you well and send you on your way. We always welcome visitors during our open hours, but a dog adopted –regardless of where- is a win! So, search far and wide, and do not settle for a dog without feeling all the feels.

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