SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (AP) - When Tricia met Minnie, she knew she was The One.
Maybe it was Minnie's big eyes. Maybe it was her painted toenails.
Or maybe it was those big ears.
Whatever it was, a connection was sparked. Tricia Greenleaf walked off with Minnie - a laid-back Chihuahua - in her arms, bound for a new life together on Greenleaf's horse farm.
"We said, 'We're not going to go looking for a dog; we're going to let her find us,' " Greenleaf said. "When we turned the corner and saw (Minnie), that was it."
Minnie was one of the first dogs adopted at a "dog speed dating" event June 8 at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines.
Organizers hoped to find homes for dogs from the Animal Center of Moore County in a unique way. In this case, the event borrowed elements from speed dating, where men and women have a short amount of time to get to know each other before moving on to the next person.
"We say we're doing speed dating for dogs, and people's mouths drop open and they say, 'What?'" said volunteer Barbara Ross. "Then they laugh."
The event was the brainchild of the Pet Placement Project, a Moore County group that formed in March. Project members work with the county Animal Center to find homes for animals that might otherwise be euthanized.
"One of our volunteers was watching the news one night, and they had a little clip about dog speed dating," said Pamela Partis, founder of the Pet Placement Project. "We said, 'We're game for trying something new, and that looks like it would be a lot of fun.' "
As with any blind date, there was some prep work to make the dogs as attractive as possible to prospective owners.
First, local families picked out the dogs who would be eligible for the event. The foster families kept the dogs in the weeks leading up to the event to help them get acclimated to being in a home.
On the day of their "dates," the temporary owners brought the dogs to a mobile grooming van, Driveway Dogs, to get gussied up. The van was parked outside Southern Pines Chevrolet, where volunteers Casey Holderfield and Ashley Cole work.
Driveway Dogs owner Beth Travinski spent hours grooming each dog inside the van.
A St. Bernard mix named Blossom was getting the Driveway Dogs treatment. Blossom, who is estimated to be 2 or 3 years old, stood patiently, if a little apprehensively, as Travinski hosed her down, shampooed her and checked for fleas and ticks.
Travinski said she volunteered her services "for the dogs."
"Honestly, I want them to find homes because we have such a high euthanasia rate," she said.
Al Carter, director of the Animal Center of Moore County, said the shelter has room for 100 dogs and cats, but on busy days, as many as 50 arrive.
More than 60 percent are euthanized, Carter said.
"It's a very heart-wrenching job to have to euthanize, but there's no real alternative unless we get them adopted out," Carter said. "Hopefully, events like the speed dating will help."
The Pet Placement Project partnered with The Country Bookshop on Broad Street to hold the event. Bookstore manager Kimberly Daniels said the store prides itself on its pet friendliness.
On date night, the dogs were escorted into the bookstore by their foster owners. Volunteers set up stations around the store, and the foster owners and the dogs took their places as visitors trickled in.
The guests were handed fliers that described each of the doggy "bachelors and bachelorettes."
Rosie, an American Staffordshire Terrier, was described as "shy yet charming" and seeking a "relaxed lifestyle." Samantha, a golden retriever mix, was said to be perfect for someone looking for an "emotionally secure, mutually satisfying, low-maintenance relationship."
Minnie the Chihuahua was described as a dog who enjoys long naps, watching movies and curling up on people's laps.
The descriptions also explained how the dogs came to be at the shelter.
Prospective dog owners enjoyed wine and cheese as they circulated among the stations, trying to find that perfect pet.
The prospective owners spent a little time with the dogs, who wagged their tails and sniffed the visitors. They were able to get comfortable with the dogs and determine whether a bond could be made.
Jerry and Jeanne Lloyd of Whispering Pines were looking for a companion to fill a void in their lives.
"We had a couple of Scottish terriers, and they both passed in the last six months," Jeanne Lloyd said. "One was 14, and one was 12. We're just trying to decide if we want another dog."
As the evening wore on, dogs were paired with owners, adopted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Partis announced each adoption to applause from the crowd. Five of the eight dogs were adopted, and Partis is hopeful the other three will be, as well.
Dave and Mary Ouellette of Pinehurst and their son Luc were first, taking home Samantha, a golden retriever mix.
For Dave Ouellette, it was Samantha's "sweet face" that sealed the deal.
"We were looking for a mellow dog, and it seems like she's the one," he said. "There's just good chemistry."
A little later, Jean Webster adopted Spike, a wirehaired terrier mix.
Webster said she had come to the event looking for a Lab to replace another that passed away a couple of months ago, but Spike won her heart.
Webster cradled Spike in her arms outside the bookstore, soothing the pup's somewhat jangled nerves.
It looked to be a good fit.
"He really is a charmer, isn't he?" Webster said. "What a funny little face. He's adorable."
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