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Homebound: Web helps animals find families

It is said that love, true love, knows no bounds, and no one knows that better than the Pato family of Ontario, Canada.

They recently made the nine-hour drive to Lawrence County, all for the love of a Yorkshire terrier named Tigger.

For three years now, the Lawrence County Humane Society has been providing homes for the dogs in their care, digitally. By all indications, the e-puppies program has been a smashing success. Their Web site, http://www.rivercitiespets.com, has been visited nearly 80,000 times to date.

The Pato family found the LCHS' site during their hunt for a Yorkshire terrier to call their own, a search which can be quite difficult in their neck of the woods, according to the family's matriarch, Elizabeth Pato.

"Here in Ontario, Yorkies available for adoption are very scarce," Pato said. "We have been looking for a Yorkie for a long time. I also do (animal) rescue work and I knew I wanted to adopt a Yorkie in need and not purchase a puppy."

After some probing, the Patos found Tigger and knew he would fit right into their home. The only problem, of course, was that that home was in Canada.

"He looked so beautiful in the photos," said Pato, "and his bio described him as playful and I knew our toy poodle would love a playmate."

Yes, the dogs have bios. Most don't just serve as the dog's history, but rather a resume of sorts. Site surfers learn which dogs are trained, what commands they know, and even what shots they have.

Once the Patos knew the dog for them, they began the adoption process. Anyone adopting a dog from the LCHS must fill out an application, with information such as number and age of family members, space available for the dog, etc.

In the Patos' case, as often happens, several families were vying for Tigger's affections, which provided some tension for the family.

"I have applied for other dogs through other shelters and have never heard back regarding the status of my application," Pato said. "So I was so thrilled when the shelter notified us as the chosen family. The decision was made quickly and they didn't leave us waiting for weeks."

After reviewing hundreds of applications, the Pato family was chosen to be Tigger's guardian. Humane Society treasurer Alberta Wise said the Patos were chosen because of their experience with their other two dogs, and the amount of space they had available for Tigger.

Once custody was awarded, there was still the practical issue with uniting pet with owner. Since FedEx was obviously out, it was decided that the Patos would make the journey to Lawrence County to pick up their beloved pup.

Transporting a dog across the border isn't as complicated as one might assume. Pato said it was a simple matter of making sure that Tigger had current vaccinations for rabies. Once the Patos had the rabies paperwork in hand, the transport of the little Yorkie was a simple matter of an 18-hour, round-trip drive that Pato described as "scenic."

Thanks to the LCHS, and the digital doggy dating service at www.rivercitiespets.com, Tigger had a new home, one that Pato said the dog couldn't be happier with.

"He settled in great," she said. "He instantly took a liking to my 15-year-old daughter and follows her around everywhere.

"He plays with Hershey, our toy poodle, and loves our attention and will bark to get it. Since the first night, he curls up in my daughter's bed to sleep whether it's bedtime or naptime."

To see Tigger and his new family and to hear Pato's excited stories about the pup, it becomes difficult to tell who is happier to have Tigger home, the dog or his new family. And to think it all started with the simple click of a mouse.