LINCOLN SQUARE — The scars across his muzzle tell the story of Cooper's life.
"Somebody bound him shut," said Elizabeth Lopez, 41, adoption coordinator for the rescue organization One Tail at a Time. "I'm assuming he was barking or chewing things."
The goal for Lopez, and the purpose of an adoption event held over the weekend in conjunction with It's a Paws World, was to find loving homes for Cooper and the dozen or so other dogs One Tail currently has in foster care.
"I hope they find a forever place to live," said Dana Stein, owner of It's a Paws World at 4725 N. Damen Ave.
One Tail, founded in 2008, has a "no kill" policy and focuses on dogs in danger of being euthanized. The rescue group prefers the more relaxed setting of pet stores for meet-and-greets versus arranging blind dates at shelters
"The shelter environment is super high stress for dogs. They don't show their best colors," said Lopez, who has two dogs and three cats of her own. "In a store, it's more calming and a better way to assess their personality."
Each dog is assigned a volunteer handler who can answer questions posed by potential adoptive "parents."
Kathy Corbin, who also fosters dogs for One Tail, was partnered with Cooper for the afternoon. The 28-year-old Wicker Park resident linked up with One Tail after her dog Gidgitt died two years ago.
"I just really missed her and in her memory I just wanted to save one dog's life," said Corbin.
She's currently fostering a Chicago court case dog.
"He's very alpha, in your face. It was scary at first," she said, though after working with a trainer to keep the dog balanced and discover his triggers, his temperament has evened out.
"It's very hard to get dogs out of such extreme situations," she said. "You want to show them the world is a good place."
First-time One Tail volunteer Lisa Olson, 34, cuddled Karl, an adorable chihuahua/miniature pinscher mix, who wanted nothing more than to be held.
"I don't have a dog, but I would like to someday," said the Ravenswood resident, who was confident her charge had made a match during the event.
"The girl that was here earlier, she's in love. She already came back," said Olson.
One Tail's rigorous adoption process ensures that few dogs are taken into homes as the result of an impulsive decision — likely the reason the animal wound up at One Tail in the first place. Lopez estimates the organization has successfully placed 300 dogs.
"We tell people to wait a few hours, get out of the dog's presence, talk to their spouse," said Lopez. "We don't want buyer's remorse."
She also emphasizes that taking on a dog is a significant responsibility.
"Anybody that adopts any dog ... they have to go into it with patience. People just think of the cuteness, they don't think of the work," said Lopez. "Yes, puppies are cute but they're spastic and they pee everywhere."
Prior to adopting, potential owners must complete a survey (are there other pets in the home? etc.) and provide references. One Tail checks with an applicant's landlord or condo association to make sure pets are allowed and also will call an applicant's veterinarian if the individual is already a pet owner.
One Tail's adoption counselors provide support during the transition and the organization also has a pool of grant money it can dispense to owners for training sessions and medical bills (up to $500).
"Sometimes it's the owner that needs work," allowed Corbin.
As the afternoon wore on at Paws World, Karl and a third dog, Emory, a little fluff ball of white fur, each had several applicants vying for adoption.
But Geri Kenneally only had eyes for Cooper, a pit bull terrier/boxer mix.
The Des Plaines resident was in the neighborhood visiting friends and popped into the shop specifically to meet the dog she's been following on Facebook.
"I do have one dog and I do want another," she said. "It's a big leap for me."
As she debated taking on another a pet, without having a fenced-in yard, Kenneally struggled with a head-versus-heart dilemma.
"They're just so helpless and you just feel so badly for them," she said. "We're all going to walk out of here with a dog."