You want a dog, a cat, a ferret (okay, you’d have to import one — they’re illegal in California), a horse or a bird. But not just any dog, cat, horse or bird: You have a breed in mind, or a mix of breeds. But in this city, you can’t just run out and buy a pet; there are just too damn many of them turned out of their homes, bred irresponsibly or living in the streets. Even if your own conscience doesn’t keep you away from that puppy mill in Victorville, your neighbors will: People are watching. So, out of honor and duty, you must rescue. But to many people, “rescue” means “take what comes your way”; it means you can’t be choosy.
Ah, but you can.
Pet Harbor (PetHarbor.com), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the people who work in animal shelters, keeps a comprehensive database of 33 agencies in and around Los Angeles that harbor lost and abandoned animals until someone comes to claim them or — a pox on all our houses — the unwanted have to be euthanized. Their clients include animal-control agencies, the Humane Society and many private welfare organizations. Through its Web site, you can launch a specific search for exactly the kind of creature that will make you whole, be it a feral girl tabby under a year old, a homeless black male pig named Pigglewiggle or a black-and-white llama gone astray in the hills above Pasadena (it happens). If you don’t find the animal you’re looking for on your first visit, you can configure the site to notify you by e-mail when the beast of your dreams wanders in. And still, you don’t have to limit your options: The Internet swarms with breed-specific rescue agencies that will be happy to inform you when your perfect little guy falls into their hands. And for the most part, these prospective pets will be spayed, neutered and kept up-to-date on their shots.
Success story: After my two beloved dogs died within a week of each other, both at the age of 17 (Who knew they were in love? They fought all their lives), I signed on to PetHarbor.com, asking for a male Cairn terrier under 1 year old. I also checked in regularly with the Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network and Perfect Pet Rescue, which take in small dogs. After just three weeks, just at the point when I considered allaying my grief with a selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor or, perhaps, heroin, 9-month-old Thomas showed up online, a “courtesy posting” on Col. Potter from Pet Haven Rescue in Murrieta, California. After a brief e-mail flirtation with one of his keepers, we rendezvoused for the first time at an Inland Empire mall. At first I thought he was too easygoing, but he has since proved worthy of his terrier bloodlines. He drives me crazy. But I love him. Who says Internet relationships don’t work?