Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Matchmakers of a rescue-dog kind

Dreamy eyes, luxuriously thick hair, a well-toned body. Matchmakers Liz Maslow and Meg Boscov thought the shapely beauty named Tasha was just who their client was looking for.

Dreamy eyes, luxuriously thick hair, a well-toned body. Matchmakers Liz Maslow and Meg Boscov thought the shapely beauty named Tasha was just who their client was looking for.

When they tried to get to know her better, however, she was a bit standoffish.

"Hi, sweetie," said Boscov.

Tasha wouldn't even look at her.

"She's overwhelmed," Boscov said to Maslow. "We need [a prospect] not as sensitive."

So it was on to the next dog - yes, dog, as in four legs and a tail.

It was another day for Main Line Mutt Match, a sort of interspecies eHarmony aimed at finding problem-free pets for people wanting rescued dogs. As canine matchmakers, Boscov and Maslow scour shelters for the perfect pooches, looking for more than a pretty face and wet nose.

Every prospective pet gets a temperament test to make sure it is well-behaved and will fit seamlessly into its new owner's home. Like a dog version of play therapy, the trainers use props and even dress like crazed mashers to gauge the animal's reaction.

Too timid? Snaps when food is taken away? Growls at other dogs? That kind of attitude won't win an orphaned pup a forever family.

The idea of matching dogs and humans is a winner, said Mychelle Blake, a spokeswoman for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. There are trainers who do pre-adoption counseling, but no others she knows of who actually pick and screen adoptees.

"Having a trainer go with you [to select a dog] is invaluable," she said. "That border collie may be cute, but it's going to herd your children around, and it's going to drive you crazy because it needs mental stimulation."

Mutt Match has placed six dogs since it started eight months ago. Last week, Boscov and Maslow, both dog trainers, were at the Last Chance Ranch dog shelter in Quakertown looking for a medium-to-large Lab mix for a family from Devon. The dog would have to withstand a lot of wear and tear, since the family has three boys, ages 4, 7, and 9.

"They seemed to know what type of dog would fit well with our family," said mother Rebecca Emory. "We could have done the research, but who has the time?"

In an initial meeting, Boscov and Maslow asked the Emorys what type of dogs they liked. Some suggestions were better than others. Labs, friendly and good with kids, worked. Overprotective German shepherds, not so much.

Though Tasha and her lookalike sister, Tabitha, seemed to fill the bill, both were too skittish.

"Very sweet dogs," said Maslow, "but not outgoing enough."

The next dog, Angel, a mid-size Lab mix with yellow eyes and dark-blond fur, was more promising.

When Last Chance trainer Sonja Meyers brought her out, Angel immediately sat and nuzzled Boscov's leg. She also lifted a forepaw, indicating submissiveness. Everyone oohed and aahed as if she had just won the Westminster Dog Show.

Then they showed her a stuffed basset hound and a baby doll, and Angel just sniffed, another good sign.

"You don't want to see lunging," said Maslow.

She also passed the handling test with flying colors, allowing Boscov to check out her ears, paws, and tail.

Next, Boscov offered her a big pig's ear, to see whether she had food issues, but Angel turned up her nose. She then gobbled a plate of canned food and didn't mind being touched - by a fake hand on a stick so Boscov didn't lose her own hand - or having the food taken away.

The best thing about the year-old dog was that she was good with children, according to Meyers, who said that recently, an 8-year-old visitor "flipped her over, pulled her tail. She loves kids, no doubt about it."

"She seems to love everybody," said Maslow. "And we love her."

But that was before they met Tessa, she of the shiny black coat and engaging personality. Not only did the bouncy Lab mix pass all the behavior tests, she did it with more verve than Angel.

"She's not as sensitive as Angel. . . . I prefer her," said Boscov, snapping pictures to send to the Emorys.

So far, only a few shelters allow the trainers to temperament-test their dogs, but such prescreening is crucial to matching dog and owner, the women say.

A few days earlier, they had come across Jake, a beautiful 10-month-old yellow Lab that seemed perfect for their clients. After getting to know him better, they decided he was too demanding for the first-time pet owners.

"They would have been overwhelmed," said Boscov. "Even though he was gorgeous."

Boscov and Maslow ask for a $200 donation for their services. That includes a training session for the new pet and owner. They also offer a discount on their dog-obedience classes.

Most people pay the full price, but the women say they will take whatever the client can afford, as adopting a dog can be as expensive as buying one. Some rescue groups charge up to $500 per pet. Last Chance's fee is from $150 to $300.

Having a new pet at Christmas will be hectic, but Emory said the family was up for the challenge - just as long as the dog isn't a big drooler and doesn't shed too much.

"It's nice that they do the legwork," Emory said of Mutt Match. "I couldn't have taken my kids and schlepped around to all these shelters."