When you arrive at the meeting, spend a few minutes talking with the potential adopter, allowing your pet to investigate him or her at his own pace. Some pets, especially friendly dogs, will want to give the adopter lots of enthusiastic attention right away, and that’s fine. Timid dogs, or cats in carriers, may need a little while to warm up. Let your pet take the lead. If your pet likes treats, bring some for the applicant to offer your pet. Treats can be a great ice-breaker!

Make sure you allow the potential adopter the chance to bond with your pet. It can be tempting to want to talk a lot, but it’s very important to give the adopter some quiet time to observe, talk to, touch (if your pet is comfortable), and get to know your pet. They need to be able to picture him or her as their pet, so it’s in your best interest to step back and observe without talking or intervening too much. Of course, the applicant will have questions for you, so don’t go too far. Also, and we can’t stress this enough, if you have any doubts or nagging feelings, don’t hand over that leash or carrier, even for a moment. Trust your gut instincts.

After the applicant and your pet have had a little bonding time, it’s your turn to ask questions. It’s a good idea to ask questions that were on the application, and also to ask some new ones. Often an in-person conversation will bring up things you haven’t heard before.

So, how do you know if it’s a match? We asked several rescuers who have conducted hundreds or even thousands of these meetings. The most common answer was, “Your pet will tell you.” You’re looking for a connection between your pet and the prospective adopter, one that seems genuine and comfortable. Is the adopter willing to get down to your pet’s level? Does he or she seem to recognize what is special about your pet?

At the end of the meeting, you and the adopter should agree to take the day to think about everything, and make plans to talk the next day. This is a big decision and shouldn’t be made on the spot! You might also ask the adopter for more information, and even to email you a video tour of their home so you can get a feel for where your pet will be living. Many people find this very comforting.