Pet Adoption How-To Guide

Whoever said “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” had it totally wrong. I could care less about diamonds. Diamonds are shiny pieces of carbon. Give me a dog!

…Or a cat, like the kitten I just adopted a month ago. See, look at Chuck, my two-month-old tabby kitten!


Chuck, in all his glory.

I swear, this blog isn’t just an excuse to post adorable photos of my kitten. As a life-long animal lover, I’ve wanted to adopt a cat (my apartment building doesn’t allow dogs, and they require a little more work than I have time for right now) for quite some time. And with spring coming and its influx of baby animals due to people not neutering their pets – I can imagine I’m not the only one wanting a new pal!

Except for in special instances like intense allergies – which might require getting a guaranteed hypoallergenic breed – I’m a huge advocate of adopting your animals. Plus, if you’re adopting through a trusted and well-vetted shelter, you might be provided with a much more reliable version of the animal’s health history, the animal most likely have been spayed and neutered, and it is significantly less costly than a breeder. There are so many cats and dogs and other lovable critters in the United States that don’t have anyone to call Mom or Dad. Of course, no need to dwell – we’ve all seen those weepy Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercials. They’re called sad puppy dog eyes for a reason!

Are you looking for a new addition to the family? Having just navigated the pet adoption process, I have a step-by-step guide!

Step 1: The Question

Decide if you have the time, energy and resources to care for a pet right now – and for the next decade or more.

Committing to taking care of an animal is a big deal. Unexpected medicine, emergency veterinarian costs, paying pet sitters, and even the everyday expenses of food, litter, treats and toys can add up. Make sure you have enough savings or at least enough expected income to cover these costs.

In addition, animals take up more time than some people think, especially first time owners. Do you have time to walk your dog at least 3 times a day, or the outdoor space to keep him? Are you willing to play with a rambunctious kitten for a couple of hours everyday to keep their minds and instincts sharp?

Another concern is if and when your family might be expanding. Of course, you can’t tell the future, but if you’re planning on having a kid anytime soon, you might want to hold off on adopting a pet. It’s also important to think about the existing members (furry or not) of the family. If you have kids, are you prepared to teach them proper treatment of animals? And if you have a pet already, how will you make sure they interact in a healthy and happy way?

I’m assuming your family already knows what kind of animal you want, but you have to ask yourself some questions about what type of pet you want. Does age matter? Kittens and puppies (so, animals under a year old) tend to be the most popular choice, but they do require more time and energy to train and care for in the beginning. Also, there are of course plenty of adult animals that need your love, too. Once you have the question of age settled, you might wonder about breed.

One “downside” to adopting is you can’t necessarily shop based on breed (certifying that the animal is purebred), as you can when buying from a breeder. However, as you do get the full veterinarian paperwork from any respectable adopting organization, you can generally have a good idea of the past history of your pet.


Stella, a border collie/lab puppy, was just adopted from the Humane Society by a coworker.

If you are, keep going to Step 2!

Step 2: The Browsing

Now for the fun parts! Once you feel you’re ready to adopt, you get to browse. There’s a multitude of ways of going about this, but first things first: check out On this site, you can set a variety of specifications, which can help point you in the right direction. For example, you could look for a “baby” or “young” border collie that is within 200 miles of your ZIP code. Sometimes the animals are from individuals who happen to be re-homing the animal, but the majority are from adoption organizations. Oftentimes, in these instances, the cat or dog isn’t at a specific shelter, but is being fostered by a caring animal lover in their home. You can consult with the foster parent to set up an available time if you’re very interested in that animal, but be prepared to fill out vetting forms asking questions like, “How much time do you have to spare for your pet?” and “Where will your pet sleep?” beforehand.

Fellow SmartPerks blogger Melanie adopted one of her Cairn terriers from a shelter located in Nebraska that she found on Petfinder. After 2.5 months at the shelter, little Bacon was certainly happy to find his fur-ever home.


And really, how could you say no to Bacon?!

Or, instead of trying to find a specific animal, you can go the route I went, which was to research adoption centers within my area and visit during my free time. Keep in mind that the weekends are usually the busiest time to go pet shopping, so if you can sneak in an hour or two during the work week, you’re more likely to be able to find the exact animal you want. Before I found Chuck, I visited all of the local Animal Humane Societies at least twice each, as well as a handful of other local shelters. Each time, although I met a cat I really liked at nearly all of them, there was always something that held me back because it just hadn’t clicked.

But then it did, and I couldn’t be happier.

There’s not always a way to know if it’s the right time and place to adopt the exact animal you are meeting with. You might not even have all of your pet supplies yet, or you were not expecting to come home with a pet TODAY and now feel a little anxious about what to do next.

But have no fear…

Step 3: The First Day

If you found The One, and went through with your adoption, congratulations! This will be an exciting time in both your family’s and your pet’s life.


It’s an exciting, but sleepy, time. Lots of napping.

But now, if you’ve gotten little Fifi or Fido home and aren’t exactly sure what you can do, here are some pointers.

Some things to look out for when pet-proofing your home:

  • Make sure all plants in your home or pet-friendly
  • Keep all medications, chemicals and cleaning agents on high shelves in tightly sealed containers
  • Secure all wires and chords so animals can’t chew on them
  • Vacuum your floor regularly and check for any small items dogs or cats might try to nibble on
  • Always keep trash (including in the bathroom) covered

Also, it’s important when introducing your animal to your newly pet-proofed home that it might take them up to 2 weeks to fully adjust and be comfortable. Giving them space and safe nooks and crannies to hide in, slowly introducing young children or other animals to your pet, and being home as often as possible to facilitate bonding are all good ways to make them feel welcome.

Now, ready to have some fun?

Both cats and dogs need toys in order to remain happy. For both animals, you will want to pick out toys that facilitate activity (like rope pulls for dogs and fishing poles for cats), distraction (like mobile toys filled with treats) and comfort (like stuffed animals or an old t-shirt).

You can check for local dog parks, join a Meet Up group for Pet Lovers, or spend some time cuddling on the couch.

Whatever you do, I hope you have the happiest time with your new friend.

Blogger Katie U., a Smart Perks employee, is currently wishing she could upload about 30 other pics of her beloved Chuck.



Tasty Ways to Start Your Day


“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.”
– John Gunther

Everyone from moms to nutrition experts contend we should start the day with a good, hearty breakfast. Yeah, well, I work full-time so most mornings I’ll just have a cup of coffee and a piece of toast or a small carton of yogurt, which I tend to scarf down as I head out the door. I realize that’s not enough to sustain me until lunch, but with everything I need to do to get ready in the morning (shower, dress, style my hair, put on makeup), I don’t really have time to whip up an omelet or some fancy fruit smoothie. My husband usually makes pancakes from a mix or pops a frozen waffle in the toaster. Sometimes he’ll eat leftover cake or pie (I swear, the guy could live on desserts!). Bottom line: we don’t put a lot of thought and effort into our morning meal during the week.

That’s why we look forward to Saturday, when we can indulge in more satisfying breakfast fare like homemade pancakes or waffles with sausage, some kind of eggs with ham, or French toast with bacon. We don’t worry about calories (often times we skip lunch anyway) and we take time to savor every bite.

My specialty is scrambled eggs. I like to spice mine up with a little cheddar cheese, green chiles and a dash of cayenne, or add ingredients like ground turkey, roasted peppers (I buy them frozen), onions, mushrooms and spinach to give them more flavor and texture. My husband gets in the act with his own French toast concoction. Not to brag or anything, but I have to say our breakfast creations are pretty flippin’ delicious!

The proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the batter?). I’ve included a few of my favorite recipes to tantalize your taste buds.

Tasty waffles

Instead of the usual syrup, top off your waffles with fresh fruit & whipped cream!

Grandma Vi’s Buttermilk Waffles (Worth all the time and effort, believe me!)
2 eggs (beat whites separately)
2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups flour (scant)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup melted butter

Directions: In large bowl, sift together all dry ingredients and set aside. In large bowl, beat egg yolks thoroughly with a whisk. Add 1/2 cup buttermilk to egg yolks and beat. Add 1/2 cup sifted dry ingredients and rest of buttermilk and whisk together. Mix in rest of dry ingredients (do not overmix). Stir in melted butter. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Gently fold beaten egg whites into batter with a rubber spatula. Pre-heat waffle iron and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Ladle about 1/3 cup of batter onto each section of the waffle iron (be careful not to overfill). Close lid and cook about 3 or 5 minutes, until steaming stops and waffles are crisp and golden. Place waffles on cookie sheet in warm oven until ready to serve. Top with butter and maple syrup, or whipped cream and fresh berries.

Casserole with sausage, bacon and apples in a pumpkin sauce

Sausage & Cheese Strata (A great make-ahead dish for brunch!)
12 eggs
12 slices white bread (torn into bite size pieces)
1 tsp. prepared mustard
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I use sharp cheddar)
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
3-1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped onion
1 lb. pork sausage, crumbled
1 cup chopped green pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. Brown sausage in a large skillet, pour grease from pan and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, mustard, salt and ground pepper. Stir in bread, cheese, sausage, onion and green pepper; pour mixture into greased 13″x 9″ baking pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered for 75 minutes or until set. Variation: Substitute 1-1/2 cups cubed ham for sausage.

Country-Style French Toast (Extra spices turn a basic recipe into something magnifique!)
Loaf of French bread, sliced or 8 slices of white bread, slightly dry
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2/3 cup milk

Directions: Whisk eggs in a wide shallow bowl. Stir in rest of ingredients and mix until well-blended. Heat griddle or skillet coated with a thin layer of butter on low or medium heat. Add bread slices to egg mixture, one at a time, coating both sides (do not soak). Place bread slices on griddle/skillet and heat slowly until each side is golden brown. Serve warm with butter and maple syrup or sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serves 4.

Upside Down Caramel Rolls (So sweet and gooey, they melt in your mouth!)
2 rolls of frozen bread dough
1 stick butter
1 large box vanilla pudding mix (not instant)
2 tbsp. milk
1 cup brown sugar

Directions: Place loaves of frozen bread dough on a cookie sheet and store in fridge overnight. The next morning, heat the oven to 200°. Take first loaf out, pull apart into pieces and place on greased 9×12 glass pan, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Mix other ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Pour mixture evenly over dough. Take out second loaf, break into pieces and sprinkle with cinnamon. Spread dough pieces over other dough pieces on cookie sheet and set in the oven to rise (cover dough with a dish cloth, put oven light on and shut oven off until dough raises to level you want.) Bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes. Dump upside down onto plate covered with tin foil and serve hot.

You’ll find hundreds of enticing breakfast recipes on Pinterest.

Bon appétit!

Blogger Catherine B., a Smart Perks employee, admits she doesn’t always eat a decent breakfast, but as long as she gets her morning cup of Joe (she likes it strong with flavored creamer), she’s good to go.

Mallo Nut Fudge Cake = True Love


Sunday is Valentine’s Day. You’ll have the whole day to work on this masterpiece. Because nothing says I love you like a rich and gooey chocolate cake!

Mallo-Nut Fudge Cake
3 oz. chocolate, cut very fine
¾ cup boiling water
1 ¾ cup sifted cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp soda
½ cup butter or shortening
½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, unbeaten
18 marshmallows, cut in half
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Put chocolate in mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over chocolate and stir until melted. Cool. Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda into chocolate mixture. Drop in butter. Beat 2 minutes in mixer at low speed. Scrape bowl and spoon. Add buttermilk, vanilla and eggs. Beat 2 minutes on mixer at low speed. Bake in 2 two square 8 x 8 x 2-inch coated pans, 30-40 minutes.
While cake is warm, press marshmallows on one layer, turned bottom-side up. Spread with Minute-Boil Fudge Frosting; put other layer on top. Add nuts to remaining frosting, spread on top of cake. Decorate each corner with a quartered marshmallow.

Minute-Boil Fudge Frosting
2 oz. chocolate finely cut
4 tbs. butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tbs corn syrup
7 tbs milk
¼ tsp sale
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbs water

Place chocolate, sugar, milk, butter, corn syrup and salt in saucepan. Bring slowly to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly, and boil briskly 1 full minute. Cool to lukewarm. Add vanilla and beat until thick enough to spread.


Recipe Notes
For the chocolate in the cake portion of the recipe I used 3 ounces of a fine dark chocolate bar (70% cacao Lindt). It was not very chocolatey so I added 2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate.
For the chocolate in the frosting portion, I tried using the same chocolate as above and again it was not enough chocolate so I added an ounce of bittersweet chocolate.
There are some errors with the frosting portion of this recipe. Water is listed as an ingredient, however it is not mentioned in the instructions. I added it in the beginning with all of the other ingredients.
Bring the frosting to a boil very slowly to allow the sugar to melt properly and mingle with the rest of the ingredients. As it nears boiling, stir constantly and briskly. The frosting will look very liquid-y as it cools. I gave it a brisk stir every few minutes to help it thicken.

Guest Blogger,  Joanne M., a Smart Perks employee,  has a daughter interning as a pastry chef! The apple pie doesn’t fall far from the family tree.