My husband and son found two abandoned pit bull puppies at a playground a month and a half before we moved from Alabama to Oregon. After asking friends and animal adoption agencies, we found a home for one of the puppies (the female) pretty quickly. We couldn't find anyone to take the male, and since the shelter in our former city would have likely put him to sleep if no one adopted him, we ended up naming him Zizi and bringing him to Oregon with us.
We intentionally made no long-term plans about the dog; we weren't sure if he would end up as a good fit for our family, and we were hesitant to officially say he was our pet. Having said that, he was also born with some kind of nasty mite condition (he chewed all of the hair and most of the skin off of his hindquarters), and we ended up taking way more care of him than we thought. We're animal lovers by nature, and we couldn't let Zizi suffer while he lived with us, so we started taking him to the vet. We ended up getting locked into a long, expensive treatment process -– and the dog managed to contract two different kinds of worms in the process.
All in all, he's been living with us for three months and has been to the vet more times than our other dog, who we've had for four and a half years. But even after deciding our 400-square-foot apartment is not a positive place for three humans and two dogs, we hung onto him while looking for a suitable home.
After contacting a few pit-specific organizations in Portland (all of which said they had no room/turned us away), and dealing with confusion between the local Humane Society (who take owner surrenders and said the dog wasn't legally ours since we haven't had him for 180 days) and the no-kill Animal Shelter (who said, even with all of the information, the dog is ours and they won't take owner surrenders), we decided to turn to Craigslist.
I know the idea of listing an animal on Craigslist makes some people super anxious -– and I totally agree. I was really nervous about the idea, convinced that he'd end up with someone who would harm him in some way, but we were running out of options. Even though Zizi is very sweet by nature and has never exhibited any kind of aggression, life gets frustrating quickly when a three-year-old kid and a puppy are sharing the same tiny playing space.
I decided to list Zizi and describe all of his quirks, including the good (lack of aggression toward animals and people, sweet temperament) and the not so good (mites), and to just read emails the first day without replying. Around 40 or 50 came in pretty quickly, and it was a lot easier to sort everyone into “no” “maybe” and “yes” than I thought it would be. Here are the general guidelines I made up and followed:
Don't charge a “rehoming fee.”
Even though we weren't sure he'd be with us forever, we've been making sure Zizi is up to date on all his vaccines and have been treating his various parasites -– combined with medical, food and housing expenses (cleaning carpets, replacing chewed toys, his kennel, etc.). We've definitely invested at least $500 in this dog in less than five months. I can totally understand why some people ask for a rehoming fee, and I get that asking for a fee may weed out people who aren't serious about taking care of an animal, but even though we had spent so much on the dog, it didn't feel right for us to make money from him.
I repeatedly stated in the listing that we were really hoping to find someone who would be nice to Zizi and who would have the time to devote a lot of energy to him -– we wanted to find someone who would love him, regardless of whether or not that person could pay something for him.
Be super picky if you want to.
Because Zizi is a pit and there are people out there who mistreat the breed, I wanted to feel as confident as possible that Zizi would end up in a home with a family –- not someone who wanted to breed or fight him. I will say this: Even though the mite condition has been super annoying and expensive, it definitely has helped figure out who is interested in actually loving and taking care of Zizi and who can't handle dealing with the potential expense and time suck. There was one email in particular that simply stated, “I have another male pit and he needs a friend,” and that was it -– and this one immediately landed in my “no” pile. I don't know whether or not the sender was well intentioned, but I had so many great responses that I could afford to turn him away.
Ask to meet the prospective owners.
The couple who is adopting Zizi is especially adorable: They were totally happy to meet us and Zizi a week before they planned to pick him up to see if he was a good fit. In doing so, we were able to really get a reading on them and see if we felt like the adoption would be a happy one for everyone. It turns out one of them is battling severe anxiety, and they were looking for a dog on the recommendation of his doctor. He's able to be home all day long with Zizi, and Zizi will be thrilled to cheer someone up -– the fact that Zizi is going to be a service animal pretty much rocks my world. Considering everyone in our house has been pretty stressed since Zizi arrived (including Zizi –- dude needs space), it makes me feel awesome that he'll be helping someone.
The best part about this entire process is that we're able to place Zizi in a new home without feeling any guilt or like we're abandoning him: We get our lives and space back, and he gets to live with someone who really wants him there all of the time and who has the space for him. This would have never happened otherwise. The day my husband took Zizi to the Humane Society and Animal Shelter was filled with tears (mine) and extreme guilt (both of us).
Shelters, no-kill or not, worried me because I hated the idea of Zizi cooped up in a kennel for most of the day, and there was no way we could just ditch him somewhere -– it's just not how we roll. As scary as the world of Craigslist can be, I'm glad it worked out for us, Zizi, and his soon-to-be new family.