• You’re madly in love with him, but you may not be able to keep him. Get tips for finding the perfect home.

    As hard as all those late-night feedings were, you’ll find the hardest part still lies ahead of you. Right now, your puppy’s little life is a one big question mark. And you have to find the answers for him, or at least you have to find his forever home.

    Before you give him to a stranger in a parking lot, or put a “Free to good home” ad in the local newspaper or on Craigslist.com, examine all of your other options. You spent a lot of time, effort and money raising him. You want to find him the happiest home possible. Contact your local pet supply store and ask for a list of rescue groups or go to Petfinder to find shelters in your area.

    Be forewarned: during the spring and summer months, shelters are up to their whiskers in puppies. No-kill facilities are usually full. If you leave your baby at a shelter that euthanizes, you must face the unfortunate possibility that he might be put to sleep for lack of cage space. Always ask about the shelter’s euthanasia policy.

    Talk to smaller area rescue groups. They often have no kennel facility; volunteers foster animals in their homes. On specific days the foster family brings their puppy to a pet supply store, shopping mall and other public places to make him available for adoption. These groups usually have stringent adoption policies requiring the animals to live inside. Most of these organizations don’t euthanize unless the dog has been badly injured or is sick. As with no-kill shelters, foster homes are usually full. Smaller rescues may accept your puppy into the program if you agree to take care of him in your home until he’s adopted.

    Ask the shelter or facility:

    • Do they euthanize animals? Under what conditions?
    • Do they screen potential adopters or do they adopt to whoever comes into the shelter?
    • If they can’t help you, can they recommend another no-kill organization?

    If you have to find a family on your own, you need to get the word out and then, ask a lot of questions. Put signs up in places where animal people go: vet clinics, pet stores, grooming salons and animal shelters. You can also put a notice up at grocery stores, fitness centers and churches. The more places you post your signs, the more people you’ll have to screen.

    Before making your puppy available, have it spayed or neutered. You can get a low-cost or no-cost procedure though many humane societies or animal shelters. This assures that he won’t be producing unwanted puppies in the future; he’ll also make a better, more relaxed pet. When you find someone who passes your test questions, ask him or her to compensate you for at least part of the money you spent. If someone pays a token fee, there will be a stronger commitment to the puppy.

    Also, not everyone who responds has your puppy’s best interest at heart. People answer “free to good home” ads for all kinds of unsavory reasons: snake food, dog fighting bait, or laboratory test subjects. Ask a lot of questions. Follow your instinct. You are not obligated to hand over your baby just because someone shows interest. If the person is vague or evasive about where they live or other pets they’ve owned, look out. Ask:

    • How many pets do you have? What happened to ones you don’t have any longer?
    • Who’s your vet? (Call the vet and verify the info you’ve been given.)
    • Does your landlord permit pets?

    Draw up a contract. Ask to see identification and get a phone number. Legitimate adopters shouldn’t mind your caution. Assure them you want to hear from them.

    When the time comes, kiss your baby and send him off to a wonderful new life he wouldn’t have had without you.

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    Finding a forever home for your pup requires some leg work.