Although the Dumb Friends League’s (DFL) shelter is located at Quebec and Evans, prospective pet owners don’t have to leave their homes to see what animals are available—their website, www.DDFL.org, is updated hourly. And if a dog or cat isn’t the right fit, other small animals, including guinea pigs and rabbits, are also at the shelter awaiting families.
But DFL doesn’t just help their adoptive pet owners, they also offer free advice and information to people who already have a pet (whether or not adopted from the League) and need help dealing with pet behavior issues. Animal Behavior Manager Matt Levien and his staff run a Pet Behavior Helpline where anyone can leave a recorded message and receive a call back from a staff member. Levien says questions range from issues of “house soiling” (going to the bathroom where they shouldn’t) to aggressiveness. The staff does up to 120 consultations each month, and last year had 2,700 Behavior Helpline cases.
Levien and his staff also offer classes for adoptive owners and evaluate incoming animals to determine whether or not they are ready to be adopted. If they have minor issues such as fear and stress, the staff will work with the animal on their issues while they are up for adoption. In more serious cases such as aggression, the staff will work behind the scenes to help ready an animal for adoption.
During the adoption process, Levien and his staff provide whatever information is known about the animal’s history, including health or behavioral issues, and tips for dealing with them. Staff members also ask questions of the prospective adopter to get a better sense of which animal might be best for the family and vice versa. Adoptive families are encouraged to spend one-on-one time getting to know a pet in a quiet meet-and-greet area where they can also introduce the new pet to an existing one. “You want them to become a family,” says Rita Aragon, caravan and satellite adoptions coordinator for the Dumb Friends League. “There are reasons why animals fall into place and are the appropriate match.”
When East Colfax resident Debi Wendt saw one particular German shepherd’s photo and information posted on the DFL website, she hurried to meet him. “I fell in love,” says Wendt. “I was there knocking on the door when they opened.”
Because Wendt had owned German shepherds before and because her dog didn’t have any major issues—just a lack of formal training—the adoption was a quick process. “I walked in the door, he got in my lap and then it was a half hour for paperwork,” Wendt says.
Wendt’s adoption experience motivated her to become a volunteer at DFL. “There is a huge need to place our animals so I feel like I am making a difference in their lives,” Wendt says. She currently volunteers three hours a week as a cat care tech. “And, of course, while I’m doing that, I spend time cuddling them. Spending all day in a cage can make them stir crazy, so I hold them as much as I can.” Now Wendt has three adopted pets, Kasey Kane, her German shepherd, and two cats who, she says, get along just fine with their big dog sibling Kasey.
All cat and dog adoptions include a spay/neuter surgery if it hasn’t already been done, initial vaccinations, a microchip ID implant, a free office visit with a participating veterinarian and a one-hour consultation with a behaviorist done either over the phone or in person after the adoption.
If the animal has already had the surgery, vaccinations and implant, the process for completing the adoption just requires that forms be filled out and the fee is paid—and the animal and owner can “go off into the sunset,” as Aragon puts it.
Aragon says a frequent question Dumb Friends League (DFL) staff hears is about the use of the word “dumb” in the organization’s name. “Kids will say, ‘But animals are really smart!’” She tells kids that the word means being unable to talk and that that the Denver Dumb Friends League, which is almost 103 years old, is modeled after a shelter in London.
The closest Dumb Friends League shelter is at 2080 S. Quebec St. and they have an equine center near Franktown. The shelters are open seven days a week, excluding major holidays. For more information, visit DDFL.org, call 303.751.5772, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.