About 6,000 animals spend time at the county’s animal services and adoption center in Derwood each year. Many of them need the same thing—a home.
Chris Hinkel and his girlfriend, Emma Kaufman, who live in Germantown, adopted Parker and renamed her Misty. Hinkel had visited the shelter the previous day and was drawn to the cat as she reached her paw toward him from her cage. “I had a strange, instant bond,” says Hinkel, a project manager for a construction company, who sent Kaufman a video of the cat touching his hand. “I fell in love via video, I guess,” Kaufman says. Hinkel grew up with cats, but this is the first for Kaufman, a law school student. They’re enjoying Misty, they say, but she’s very active, so they’re considering adopting a friend to keep her company.
Adoption counselor Courtney Stackhouse meets with Pedro Perrella of Gaithersburg to talk about Curly Fry, a 5-month-old Labrador-pit bull mix. Members of the intake staff name the animals as they arrive—there’s a suggestion box, and employees try to get creative. Curly Fry is one of the “Fry Guys.” His brothers are Small Fry, Cajun Fry and French Fry; their mother’s name is Pepper. Pit bulls, German shepherds, Rottweilers and mixes of those breeds are more common at the shelter, and also harder to place. When Stackhouse talks with visitors, she asks them about their living situation and whether there are other animals in the home. “It’s all about expectations and what you want to be doing [as a pet owner],” she says. “I like to see the animals going home with somebody who will take care of them. They’ve had a rough life by the time they get to us. We just want to make sure it gets better.”
As visitors enter the lobby of the adoption center, a volunteer greeter (Alan Berger, center) often asks what kind of animal they want to see and if they want to adopt that day or sometime soon. Then they’re directed to the front desk to sign in and complete a questionnaire while they’re looking at animals. The center does not conduct home visits, but all adults in the family are required to meet the animal before an adoption can be finalized, and staff members encourage potential owners to introduce the animal to any other pets they have.
A 7-year-old girl peers in on Bonnie and Clyde, two Yorkshire terriers she was looking at with her grandmother. Within the hour, the dogs were adopted by a woman from Rockville, and the young girl was in tears in the lobby. When an application is submitted, staff members try to mark the cage card with an “adoption in progress” sticker as quickly as possible to avoid disappointments, but that doesn’t always happen when it’s busy, center director Tom Koenig says. Visitors are encouraged to look at more than one animal, as the status of an adoption can be fluid.