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Doggie Foster Care
Comments () | Published February 14, 2011

Chi Chi’s adoption coordinator, Lindsay Cunliffe, talked to people who’d seen Chi Chi online and wanted to know more about her. Lucky Dog helps potential adopters find a dog that’s the right fit. They won’t adopt out a Chihuahua to a family with young children or send a husky to live in a small apartment.

“That’s one of the good things about Lucky Dog,” says Paraiso, who does contract work for a technology company. “They make sure people have realistic expectations.”

While Paraiso was at work, he watched Chi Chi on a Web cam with two-way audio. If he saw her chewing on her crate, he’d play the sound of a barking dog to get her to stop. One morning, he looked at his screen and didn’t see her. She was supposed to be in there all day, except when the dog walker came.

This isn’t good, he thought. We’ve lost our foster dog.

It took him a few minutes to spot her, but she was lying there, content, camouflaged by the white material from the inside of the dog bed she’d ripped apart.

About a fifth of the people who foster end up adopting. It’s a good thing, Horowitz says, and she’s done it herself, but it makes things tougher for Lucky Dog. Many of those people stop fostering. When she loses a foster volunteer, she has to find another one.

By Chi Chi’s third adoption event, during which she wore a green adopt me bandana, Cleveland and Paraiso had already thought about keeping her. Cleveland liked that Chi Chi had spots, as their first dog had, and that she was affectionate but didn’t lick faces. And she liked the way Chi Chi’s whole body wiggled when she got excited.

Why was a good dog like this on death row? she wondered.

But she wasn’t sure the time was right. She still cried over Lilly. That’s okay, a friend told her; you can miss one dog and love another.

They’d had Chi Chi for three weeks when they had to make a decision. They were leaving for a vacation, and Chi Chi was going to another foster home—if they didn’t adopt her before they left, someone else might.

Hours before their flight, Cleveland sent Cunliffe a note: “Jason and I are very excited to have Chi Chi as part of our family,” she wrote. “I think she’s excited, too.”

The day they got home, Cleveland and Paraiso went shopping for a tag with Chi Chi’s new address on it. When Chi Chi saw them, she wagged her tail so hard they thought she might fall over.

This article first appeared in the February 2011 issue of The Washingtonian. 

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