Pasadena Humane adoption counselors are matchmakers for forever homes

Adoption counselor with Paco

Adoption counselor Ivy Gonzalez spends some quality time with Paco, A506160, a 2-year-old mixed breed. Fun-loving Paco has become quite a favorite; his adoption fee has been waived thanks to one of his staff member friends. He is also available for a 10-day trial adoption.

Last week, I introduced you to one of Pasadena Humane’s Animal Resource Specialists, Tatihana Flores. For the second in our series on frontline animal shelter staff, we’ll take a behind-the-scenes look at another one of the most important jobs in a shelter: the Adoptions Counselor.

The next time you are looking to adopt at Pasadena Humane, you may be paired up with Ivy Gonzalez, an adoption counselor for nearly two years. Ivy considers herself a “matchmaker” who helps pets find new homes.

When adopters visit Pasadena Humane, they typically schedule an appointment with Ivy or another of our adoption counselors who will introduce them to pets they are interested in adopting.

During the meet-and-greet, the counselor will answer questions about the pets’ personality, basic care and any medical or behavior notes in the pets’ files.

Over the last few decades, shelters have become one of the most popular places to acquire a pet. Since adopting a pet is an important decision, we want adopters to have as much information as possible to help them make that decision.

“The adoptions team works hard to place every animal while being as transparent as possible,” explains Ivy. “We strive to give every animal in our care the best possible outcome.”

At Pasadena Humane, like most shelters these days, we embrace an open adoption philosophy, welcoming adopters of all backgrounds and experience levels. Conversations with adoption counselors help guide adopters in deciding if a particular pet is the right fit for their lifestyle.

These conversations have replaced rigid application and screening criteria and are helping more homeless animals find loving homes, although sometimes through these conversations adopters realize they are not ready for a pet.

Most pets that come into the shelter are adopted quickly. But others stay longer.

“The most rewarding part of my job is finding homes for the animals, especially when they are long-term residents,” shares Ivy.

One long-stay dog Ivy remembers fondly is Sebastian, a German shepherd who was at the shelter for many months. Sebastian had some challenging behaviors, so it was especially difficult to find him the perfect home. Patience paid off, though.

“When Sebastian was adopted, it was the best feeling,” Ivy exclaims. “So much happiness for him and his new family.”

In between adoption counseling and administrative tasks, Ivy loves to find creative ways to promote the pets waiting for homes. She designs kennel signs highlighting the pets’ personalities and helps the marketing team write pet bios for adoption promotions.

She also enjoys giving dogs an out-of-kennel break in the adoptions office whenever possible. These breaks provide Ivy and the other counselors a chance to get to know the dogs better and to see how they behave in a more home-like environment.

For Ivy, one of the hardest parts of her job is seeing a pet returned to the shelter despite our best match-making efforts. At Pasadena Humane, when an adoption is not a good fit, we welcome animals back to the shelter.

While it can be emotionally challenging for everyone concerned when a pet is returned, we learn from what did not work in the adoptive home and try again to find a better match.

Pets adopted from Pasadena Humane are vaccinated and micro-chipped. One interesting fact regarding adoptions is that state law requires that all pets must be “fixed” before being adopted from a shelter.

Next week, we’ll meet Dr. Anna Sarfaty, one of the five full-time veterinarians at Pasadena Humane working to provide lifesaving medical care, as well as spay or neuter surgery, to the thousands of animals that come into our shelter each year. Be sure to follow along!

Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on March 17, 2023.