By John Kelly,
Our new rescue dog, Archie
, is obsessed with white vans. Whenever there’s a white van or panel truck on our street — a plumber, a landscaper — he pulls at his leash to get a closer look.
I can’t help but wonder: Did Archie’s previous owner drive a white van? Does Archie think living with us is just temporary and a white van means it’s time for him to go back home?
Does Archie think about his old humans — and do those humans think about Archie?
Those are the sorts of questions Connie Bekavac hopes to answer with her website, Pet Parents’ Place (petparentsplace.com). It’s a place where people who gave up their dogs, cats or other pets can connect with the people who have them now, and vice versa.
Connie, a retired Energy Department employee who lives in Edgewater, Md., has had various rescue dogs over the years. A previous dog — a little pooch Connie named Beemer — was adopted when he was 2 years old. That was an odd age for a rescue, Connie thought. In her experience, they tend to be either puppies or much older.
Later, Connie learned that when Beemer’s original owner had moved to a nursing home, no family member could take the dog, so he was left at an animal shelter. Connie figured the owner might have welcomed the news that Beemer had found a loving home.
Pet Parents’ Place allows people to enter information on an animal they have or one they gave up: breed, color, age, chip ID number, distinguishing marks, etc. They can upload a photo. They also provide their first name and email address. If a match is made, the two parties can email one another.
As the free website explains: “Help bring peace of mind to those pet parents that wonder what happened to their beloved pet. Find out that your past pet or a foster pet now has a loving home.”
Connie figures some people want to know what happened to their pet.
“Even though you couldn’t take care of them anymore, you’d be happy you’d given them a good start,” she said. “The other side of that is people can also find if there are any behavioral or medical issues about the dog. It’s two-sided. It’s kind of like an open adoption, if you will, for pets.”
Connie said about 1,000 people have entered information on the Pet Parents’ Place website. A majority are owners who had to give up a pet, she said. There had been no easy way to tell whether a match was made, but Connie just tweaked the website so she’ll get a copy when animal owners connect by email.
“Right now, with covid, a lot of people are home and adopting a lot of dogs,” she said. “On the other side, people are losing their jobs and can’t afford to keep their pets. There’s a lot of action going on with rescues.”
That’s apparently the case with our Archie. The rescue group that organized his adoption said Archie came from a rural area in North Carolina. He was owned by a family that could not afford to feed or care for him. He came to us underweight and positive for heartworm, a condition that is common in the South.
I don’t think Archie was mistreated — he doesn’t duck or shrink away when I raise my hand to pet him — but some rescue dogs surely are. One Labrador retriever we met had spent five years chained to a tree in a front yard.
Said Connie: “I’ll be the first to admit that if they adopted an abused dog, they don’t want to get into contact with the original owner. That’s perfectly understood.”
And Connie said her website requests only the users’ first names and email addresses to “cut down on any concerns that somebody would come and repossess the pet or anything else.”
Gina Hardter of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria said most shelters and rescue groups try to provide information, if they have it, to adopters: health, behavior, favorite food. AWLA also makes free dog and cat food available for owners who have trouble affording it.
They don’t share contact information but will pass on assurances to previous owners when an animal has been adopted.
“We know it provides peace of mind,” she said.
New owners of rescues conjure up all kinds of stories about their dogs. Gina and her husband did it with their second dog, Charlie, a pit bull/mastiff/hound mix who knew how to sit and was good on a leash but was painfully shy.
“I had an idea that he probably lived with somebody older — maybe someone who had passed away — and didn’t know what to do without them,” Gina said.
Then Gina met the person in charge of the West Virginia rescue group that had shuttled Charlie to Alexandria, who said that Charlie came from a farm, had lived outside his entire life and ran with a pack of other dogs.
Said Gina: “It was the exact opposite of what we thought. It didn’t affect how much we love him.”
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.