March 2012

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Do you know how to tell a homeless pet's story and make it sing?

There's a lot more to writing a memorable pet adoption listing than giving the pet's name, age, and intake number. And there's definitely more to it than cataloging the sad story that led to the pet's arrival at your shelter or a list of his challenges and problems.

Focus instead on the pet's personality - his quirks, the twinkle in her eye, the way he rests his head on your knee, the habit she has of knocking your hands off the keyboard when you're trying to type.

These are the details that make a pet come alive for a prospective adopter and create the overall impression that every pet in every shelter or rescue group has a distinct personality and their own qualities of charm and lovabilty. This not only helps get that one pet adopted, it improves the prospects for all homeless pets.

Writing listings that are sad and negative - talking about how a pet was "dumped" or "pulled from a high-kill shelter and trying to forget his past" - can be counterproductive and make people worry that pets in shelters have too much baggage to become happy parts of their family.

Every day on The Shelter Pet Project Facebook page, dogs and cats who are looking for homes are featured. Each "bio" is written from the point of view of the pet, and is intended to make people feel connected to the pet and create a positive feeling about shelter adoption in general.

Check out a few of The Shelter Pet Project's "Greatest Hits" and see if you can get ideas that make your adoption listings catch more attention from prospective adopters.

1. Daisy
Fish gotta swim... birds gotta fly... I gotta sing and sing until I FIND MY FOREVER HOME WITH YOU! (Fooled ya, didn't I?) I'm Daisy, and I'm so full of love that my foster mom says I'd be a great therapy dog, because apparently the opera is not hiring just now. Want to sing along?

2. Alexa
Hullo dahlings! I'm Alexa, and I have very strong views on the proper habitat for my gorgeousness, which involve hovering servants (you), a warm spot to rest on (your lap), and luxurious accommodations (your bed). Since despite my many wonderful qualities I lack opposable thumbs, you'll have to do the clicking for both of us.

3. Stitch
Yeah, I know I've got that irresistible "Tramp" thing going on. But here's my secret, just between you and me: I'll love you even if you're no "Lady." Because I won't check your pedigree, your bank account or your credit score. I'm only interested in checking out one thing about you: The size of your heart. And if there's room for a scruffy little dog named Stitch, then it's just the right size for me.

4. Lani
I was saying to myself just this morning, "Lani," I said, "Lani, you know what you need? You need a person all your own." So I sat down to write this post for the nice Shelter Pet Project people, because apparently that's the kind of thing they do - find nice people for extremely intelligent and lovable, slightly senior kitties who are...I shudder to type this...LAPLESS. That's right: I have no lap to call my own. Could you be persuaded to volunteer yours?

5. Dolly
Yes. Okay, already. I'm a dog. I really am. I'm not a porcupine or a tribble or whatever you were about to guess. And I may be a little gray around the muzzle and need some special TLC, but doesn't every dog deserve that when she gets to be my age? I'm Dolly, and you can verify my real, true, loyal, loving doggy heart and soul by visiting me at Displaced Pets Rescue in Vernonia.

6. Toffee
Do you see what I'm reduced to? Cuddling with a STUFFED ANIMAL instead of a warm, breathing, can-opening, treat-dispensing, cat-toy-wielding, real, live human person to call my very own! I'm Toffee, and you need to fix this problem for me IMMEDIATELY.

7. Ziggy
Let me guess: You sing in the car. Loudly. Off-key. And did I mention loudly? Or you snore, or talk in your sleep, or like to practice your bagpipe playing. Well, that might make a lesser dog than I, Ziggy, have second thoughts about coming to live with you and love you, but not me! That's because my heart is SO ENORMOUS and my potential for devotion is PRACTICALLY BOTTOMLESS and also...well, I can't hear. That's right, I'm deaf! But I know all the obedience hand signals, and my foster mom has trained me to be pretty much perfect, and I'll just snooze away happily at night while you snore and mutter. Tell me that's not a relationship made in HEAVEN! Tell me you're not frantically reading these words, thinking, "MY GOD! I must find out how to adopt this dog RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!" Calm down, off-key-singing person! I have all the information you need to adopt me, or share me with some other bagpipe-playing human who needs me in their life.

8. Charles
Hmmm, yes. I see you there. And really, if you're going to think I'd PERFORM for you, like a DOG or one of those lesser cats who BAT at things or make annoying little mewing sounds...well, you clearly haven't met a really PROPER cat. Such as myself, Charles. However, if you have a truly sensitive nature and appropriate living situation to offer, I will consider you as a potential human companion. Perhaps.

9. Sammie
Helloooooo nice person! I'm Sammie; who are you? You say you're looking for a dog??? That's amazing! Because I am a dog! You say you knew that? That you came here to the rescue group looking for ME? Truly? You saw me on Faceook when your friend shared my link on their page, and said I was a beautiful, old girl in Sacramento, California, who needed someone JUST LIKE THEM to be totally happy for the rest of her life? Well, isn't that amazing! I guess that means we're going to be best friends FOREVER! And to think it all started when someone clicked that "share" button.

10. MJ
Oh, hello. I assume this disturbance of my morning playtime was to interview another prospective home? I'm M.J. Let me explain my simple requirements: Endless love. Warm lap. Abundant toys. Worshipful adoration of my sassy diva-ness. If there must be a dog, he should be completely subservient to my wishes at all times. (Looking you up and down.) Yes, I believe you might be suitable.

11. Sam
I am Sam! Sam I am! (I'm a Border Collie, so yes, I have read that book.) I'm a four-year-old guy, formerly down on his luck, currently hanging with the local Border Collie rescue here in North Carolina, waiting for my soul mate to march in that door. You know us Border Collies are super-smart - some say smarter than a 7-year-old human! - and my person will get all the benefit of my brainpower, and more importantly, the super-heart that goes with it! Ready for some high-IQ love? Click me, or share me with your friends! It's the SMART thing to do!

12. Laverne and Shirley
Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Laverne and Shirley here, ready to make your dreams come true! We're sisters who were snatched from DOOM to find ourselves being lovingly cared for by our nice rescue friends here in Los Angeles, who fixed us up and now sit around and gives us helpful tips on how to find a home like, "Be totally adorable! Sing a cute little song! Walk side by side and do all the same things!" So we've been practicing and we think we're kind of perfect (if you don't count some little problems seeing that were a result of our Unfortunate Early Experiences with eye infections, now totally fine!).

13. Lola
HAPPY NATIONAL PIT BULL APPRECIATION DAY! I'm Lola from Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue, and I have a list of ways you can appreciate me: Throw ball. Take wet ball from my mouth. Throw ball. Take wet ball from my mouth. Admire my adorableness as I run after it. Take wet ball from my mouth. Throw ball...oh, sorry. Sometimes I get a little carried away. The other thing you can do to show your appreciation is adopt ME, or help me find my forever wonderful home by using your "share" button! Also, please post many great comments about my beauty, telling everyone about fantastic and amazing pit bulls you have known.

14. Simmi
Smile pretty for the camera??? Do I LOOK like a supermodel to you? Can't you see I was NAPPING? I'm Simmi, and I really think these rescue people must be nuts or something. Nice, but nuts. My purrson died, they brought me here, they try to get me to do the runway thing ("Why do you think they call it a ‘catwalk,' Simmi?" they coo) and they keep interrupting my nap. Let me lay it on the line: I'm a cat. A MATURE cat. I have my pride and my dignity, unlike SOME OTHER SPECIES who are all about being in your face and slurping you and stuff. Ack. Not me! It wasn't my fault that my purrson died, and now in my golden years, when I should have been lazing around in the sunshine while he admired my beauty, I'm out there having my picture taken and PURRSONALS ads placed for me by well-meaning but still annoying rescue people. You or a friend of yours can get me away from all this. I have a LOT of napping to catch up on!

15. Scooby
GO BIG OR GO HOME! If that's your motto, then I'm your dog! I'm Scooby, and I'm a 5-year-old some have described as "needing to learn manners" but I prefer to think of as EXUBERANT and FUN-LOVING! I'm really, really excited to meet you and show you just why they call us "GREAT" Danes and not just "OKAY" Danes or even "REALLY GOOD" Danes. You will love me; I guarantee it! And if not, don't you have a friend or relative who needs some BIG DOG LOVE?

16. Snow White
If you have a single drop of compassion in your heart you'll come down to this place and GET. ME. OUT. OF. HERE before they put the whole Santa suit on me. I'm Snow White, and I'm in Baltimore, and I think you should hurry. I hear jingle bells coming from the next room. Aren't there LAWS about this kind of thing? What's that, you say? You're too far away to save me? Well, click that "share" button then. There's gotta be someone you know within a day's drive of Baltimore who'll take pity on me! HELP!!!!! They're singing again!

17. Poirot
‘allo, I am Poirot. I am desolated to not be able to assist you, Monsieur or Madame, at this time, but I am at present being kept in a - what is the word - "shelter," until such time as a kind person - such as, perhaps, yourself? - chooses me as your own in-house detective, where I will, I assure you, get to the bottom of each and every mystery within its four walls. I ask only, my dear friends, that I not be expected to share the premises with any creatures of the chien persuasion; I trust you understand.

18. Brittany
Yes, ma'am, I'm ready and paying attention. Repeat after you? Yes, ma'am, I will. "Hi, there...I'm Brittany..." (insert cute head tilt here). "Don't you want to take me home?" (gaze with patented puppy dog eyes). What's that, ma'am? I'm the best student you've ever had? I get a GOLD STAR? The person who clicks this link and adops me is the LUCKIEST PERSON EVER? Aw, shucks!

19. Tikki
OH HAI! Are you this "light at the end of the tunnel" I keep hearing about? Are you my purr-ever home? Are those adoption PAPERS you're signing? And do they say "Tikki" on them? That's MY name! (scrunches eyes tight) Please don't let this be a dream...please don't let this be a dream...