Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lots of L.O.V.E. in downtown Frederick


    I have reviewed a lot of really interesting and unique shops both on this blog and in newspapers and magazines, but never in my ten years of journalism had I come across an entire type of of shop that I never even knew existed.  That is, never until I discovered Lebherz Oil & Vinegar Emporium (aka L.O.V.E.).  Olive oil and vinegar are great flavor-boosters for things like salad and hummus, but never did I imagine an entire store dedicated to bringing us 48 different varieties on tap!
     According to owner Maggie Lebherz, she also didn't know about such places before her study abroad program in Spain a few years ago.
     “I really got into the cuisine and had fresh olive oil which I had never had before and so when I got back here I looked everywhere and couldn’t find anything like what I had so I did lots of research, found what I had in Spain and went from there," she said. 
     I felt really ignorant at this point because I didn't know that freshness made such a difference when it came to olive oil. I assumed that anything in a non-refrigerated sealed bottle was good for decades, but apparently age has a major negative impact on both the flavor and health benefits of olive oil.
     "“You want to get this fresh olive oil that’s high in polyphenols because that’s where the anti-oxidants are.  You’re going to get health benefits from actually using it," she said.  "If you get any olive oil that’s been sitting in heat and sunlight for a year, the free fatty acids are high, so much higher sometimes that it’s not much better than using butter.”
     She keeps her oil and vinegar in these large steel vats with spigots on the end until the customer decides to buy a bottle.  Keeping it in larger quantities in non-glass containers preserves its' freshness for longer.  Her store is extremely unique in the US doing this with oil imported from Europe - so unique in fact that a restaurant in D.C. buys their oil and vinegar directly from her rather than a provided closer to them.  
video
     
     What surprised me even more were the flavor fusions and infusions into the oil and vinegar.  I am familiar with how different flavorings are added to honey, tea and wine, but I had no idea that similar things were done to oil and vinegar.  What I find particularly amazing is that the oils are infused with flavors that you would never normally think of adding to just about anything else.
     My attention was first turned to L.O.V.E. a few days before I went there when friends of mine introduced me to an oil that was fused with mushrooms at the moment the olives were pressed.  It was smooth, rich, flavorful and made an excellent dip for whole wheat bread.  This is certainly not a flavor I could get or would want in honey, tea or wine!
     But what I found even more interesting and enlightening were Maggie's balsamic vinegars.  She said that technically speaking, most of the brands that are marketed as balsamic in grocery stores are just imitation because in order to be true, they must be from Modena, Italy and be aged for at least 12 years, whereas the imitations are usually aged about four years.  
     When it comes to vinegar, she says that proper aging can totally change our usual perception of its character and use.  Would you ever pour vinegar on ice cream or cheese cake?  That sounds totally gross, right?  But as vinegar ages for over a decade, the sugars become more dense and the body becomes much more like a sweet syrup.  I was highly skeptical myself, but I bought a bottle of her strawberry balsamic vinegar and smothered chocolate ice cream in it.  I got the same great flavorful sweetness as I would have from strawberry syrup, but also this really interesting tangy kick that opened up more of the chocolate flavor.  
     But if that still sounds really weird, the truly amazing thing about L.O.V.E. is that you can sample all of the oil and vinegar from the same vats from which the bottles are filled.  And because L.O.V.E. loves their customers, they encourage you to come in and try a small sample of all of their products.  Seriously, just let a tiny dab of the vinegars touch your tongue and you won't wonder why I put it on ice cream.
     I was also thrilled by how well Maggie knows her products.  Each one of them has intricate aspects, but she can describe them perfectly and provide a seemingly endless supply of serving suggestions.
     Even the store space is really well-done and has a comfortable feel.  I thought it was interesting that the color scheme and architecture of the building are highly suggestive of the Mediterranean world from which her products come, while at the same time proclaiming itself a proudly local business by displaying beautiful glass-etchings of Frederick scenes donated by local artist, Yemi.  Add that to the rows of gleaming steel vats full of rich but affordable goodness, and this is most definitely a store that I recommend to my readers.

video
Lebherz Oil & Vinegar Emporium 
214 N. Market Street 
Frederick, MD 21701
301-228-3996

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Frederick Coffee Co.



     Perhaps the phrase "home away from home" is used too often to describe very relaxing restaurants and cafes, but I'm going to go ahead and contribute to the problem here because I can think of no better way of describing The Frederick Coffee Company & Cafe in downtown Frederick.  Not only do they have a good menu replete with comforts such as hot/cold drinks and sandwiches, they provide an overall pleasant and welcoming atmosphere.  In fact, sometimes it can honestly be more comfortable than home. 
     The first thing you will probably notice upon entering the downtown cafe is a wall covered in an ever-changing visual art display.  Sometimes I will see a photography exhibition from Latin America or crafted art such a modern paintings and sculpture.  I like that there is usually some mix of local and international art.  The pieces are usually for sale for reasonable prices, but certainly free to gaze upon as you sip your coffee and eat a bagel. 
     The space has plenty of regular table seating, but also some comfy arm chairs next to little end tables if you want a nice place to sit and read a book or use your laptop for a while.  They have free wireless internet so I've found it's a really nice place to get some work done.  I've never been one for sitting in a library at a desk under buzzing fluorescent lights for hours as I type away.  Last summer I think I must have written at least half of my M.A. thesis in the comfort of the Frederick Coffee Co., all the while alternating between hot chai and Italian soda and enjoying pleasant background music.
     If you come in with friends, you might want to take advantage of the board games.  Sometimes when I give out-of-town friends a walking tour of downtown Frederick, I'll take them in there for breaks.  We'll refuel on food and drinks while enjoying a round or two of Scrabble and then hop back to our feet to check out more of my favorite places.  It's especially nice when I happen to be on the east side of town for shopping or parking anyway because the next closest cafes are a few blocks away.
     The Coffee Co. also has a vibrant night life.  They have live music four nights a week, including an open-mic night every Tuesday to give new artists a shot at working the crowds.  I've seen some really talented groups come through there and I think I'm going to stop by sometime soon to look for a band to Feature on the blog.
     If you are ever trying to find me, the Coffee Co. is a great place to start looking.  I have been a loyal fan of the Coffee Co. for nearly twenty years now and I see no reason not to add a few more scores to that number. 

100 N. East St.
Frederick, MD 21701
(301) 698-0039
http://www.fredcoffeeco.com/

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mediterranean Grill


     A few days ago some friends suggested that I would really love the Mediterranean Grill in the Westview Shopping Center because it has so many of my favorite foods.  In the past few years I've become a big fan of more exotic foods (exotic for my house, anyway) like hummus, tabouleh and bruschetta and I'm always looking to try new samples, so I stopped by to check it out.  I had it in mind that I would try a little bit of all of my new favorites just to see how they would do it differently, but when I got their interesting menu in my hands, I realized that I had barely scratched the surface of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine.
     On their appetizer menu, I discovered for the first time that hummus is actually part of a larger family of food called mezze dips which are made from all manner of mashed up vegetables, cheese, spices, juices, and oil to create flavorful sauces for dipping bread.  I found myself in a bit of a conundrum because I came to the restaurant to see how the items on their menu with which I am familiar from other sources measure up to what I know, but at the same time I wanted to explore things I had never even heard of.  Because my sister, Meg, was with me, I figured that I could get away with ordering two appetizers and sharing them, so I decided to order one familiar to me for the sake of comparison, and one totally new to me for the sake for adventure.
     For the familiar dish, I ordered the bruschetta, which consists of tomatoes, onions, olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, oregano, crumbled feta cheese, and capers spread over pieces of garlic bread.  One of the things that I have noticed about this dish is that it varies widely from one restaurant to another, but the Mediterranean Grill competes for the best I've ever had.  The tomatoes here are large, fresh slices as opposed to the diced, salsa-like ones that I'm used to.  And feta, which I think is one of the most interesting cheeses I've ever had, is not a standard ingredient at other places.  I liked how the tomato-mix and toasted garlic bread slices came separately so that my sister and I could cover them as much as we wanted and in different proportions from each other.
     The new mezze that I ordered, called tirosqlata, consisted of roasted red pepper, pepperoncini, red chili peppers, crumbled feta cheese, lemon juice, and oregano served with an enormous piece of pita bread for dipping.  A big fan of each of those ingredients individually, save for pepperoncini which I had never heard of, I had to give it a try.  It was presented on a large flat dish in something of a swirled pattern, with a big green olive placed in a tiny pool of olive oil in the middle.  I have never been good at describing the intricacies of flavor, but it was delicious to say the least.  It's a little spicy, but just enough to make it interesting.
     I was really tempted to try one of the entrees that I hadn't encountered at other restaurants, such as the Istanbul pizza covered in creamy feta or the shawarma, which is chicken, lamb, or beef marinated in red-wine vinegar and slowly roasted.  But it had been so long since I had had a good gyro that I decided to stick to the classic.  I'm really glad that I did because it's definitely the best one that I can even remember having.  Rather than the thin shavings of lamb meat that I'm used to, this had thick savory chunks smothers in feta and all manner of delicious seasoning.
     Meg and I didn't have room for dessert, which is an enormous shame because I'd love to try their tiramisu or baklava with one of their custom made espressos.  Speaking of which, not only are they a great place for lunch and dinner, they have a full menu of Italian-style specialty coffees.  In fact, they offer a lot of special items and I have barely began to scratch the surface.
     In addition to great ethnic food, they provide a charming atmosphere.  They have a copper-color theme, with copper-covered table tops and strange-looking copper fountains attached to the wall.  Meg and I were a big fan of their outdoor seating area that sits at a particularly busy pedestrian area right near the movie theatre.  Add all of that to their extremely attentive and friendly waiting staff, and I have no choice but to give Mediterranean Grill an A+ for interest and excellence.

Mediterranean Grill
Westview Promenade                  
5221A Buckeystown Pike        
Frederick, MD 21704                                                                    
Phone (301) 620-1666

www.medgrillusa.com          

Monday, May 16, 2011

Zoe's Chocolate: Sweet Treats in Frederick


     Ever since my return from Europe nearly a year ago I've had trouble adjusting back to a certain popular corporate American chocolate, the name of which I won't mention but assume you know.  By European standards, this famous chocolate feels and tastes rather like wax in my mouth.  So when I recently discovered Zoe's Chocolate Co. on Market St., I had to check it out in hopes of escaping the more standard options.
     I knew I was in the right place as soon as I walked into the bright pink store front.  They have rows and rows of different types of chocolate bars on all sides and a glass counter full of little chocolates for gift boxes.  I was hit with a wave of chocolate flavor on the very air.  I bought a bar of their hazelnut dark chocolate and could tell that it was good just by looking.  It was divided into eight thick, dark squares and it smelled amazing as soon as I removed the wrapper.  At first taste I immediately knew there was a quality here that couldn't be matched by you-know-who's chocolate.  It was rich, strong and smooth.  I could tell that it was made with much more actual cocoa and few unnatural preservatives than that which shall not be named.  I no longer feel the need to get on an airplane to enjoy delicious chocolate.
     Zoe Tsoukatos, who has run the shop with her family since 2007, said their chocolate is so good because they are third-generation Greek chocolatiers.  Their family started the business in Baltimore in 1902 and has carefully passed down the family secrets ever since.
     But according to Zoe, the goal of this new shop is to marry tradition to modernity.
     "We took a lot of the old-world recipes and we tweaked it to today's pallets," she said.  "'Time honored tradition meets modern sophistication' is like our slogan."

     Their flavors include unique things like a Mediterranean line that mixes chocolate with things like baklava, tahini, pistachip, citrus, and orange blossom.  She said that the caramel chocolates with sea salt are among her hottest selling items.
      "We try to step outside the box, play with the consistencies, so it's a little bit different than what everybody else does, but yet we still play to the classic American pallet where you have like apple pie, pear and peanut-butter and jelly," she said.  "We try to mix both worlds from our heritage and the American culture as well."
     I also like the freshness of their chocolate.  It's actually brought into the store on a daily basis from Waynesboro, PA on the same day it's made.  Zoe said they strive to use local flavoring ingredients whenever possible.  But even when they don't, the ingredients that they do use are really cool, like genuine Italian butter.
     I'm sold.  I'm definitely coming back to Zoe next Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, birthdays, Christmas, and whenever I just need to remember what real chocolate tastes like.
video




Zoe's Chocolate Co.
121 North Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701-5421
(301) 694-5882
http://www.zoeschocolate.com/
     

Friday, May 13, 2011

Welcome Back Freez King



     Maybe this will seriously harm my credentials as a true Fredericktonian, but I here confess to my readers that I have only ever been to the Freez King on East St. once before it closed in 2009 because I didn’t even know it was there.  Yes, I know how much everyone loved it and I really liked it the one time I was there.  It was great because of its simplicity.  Three flavours of soft-serve ice cream (one of which is a combo of the other two) and quick hamburgers and hotdogs right at the edge of a nice little residential neighbourhood and across the street from a lovely park was a great business model.  The problem?  The building didn’t exactly scream “I’m here!” but their new digs certainly do.
     As I headed north on East St. to visit the newly opened reincarnation of a Frederick staple, I couldn’t but notice the giant “Freez King” sign sitting on top a big red arrow pointed at the building.  The structure itself is a much more imposing figure, with a large, almost towering, grey front with huge open doors.  What I noticed right away was that the outside was swarmed by happy people, mostly families, chatting and laughing as they walked away with the reinvented menu items or chilled on the patio furniture.

     The line was long, but totally worth it.  I noticed that they added a LOT to their simple menu, but I was in the mood for a classic.  I got a large cup full of their soft-serve chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.  The weather was perfect for a walk in through the park, so I strolled slowly down the stream as I dug into my frozen treat and watched several species of birds flying everywhere.  I had forgotten that the park there has so much in the way of basketball and tennis courts, and I thought it would be great to maybe spend some time this summer running around there with friends and then taking a break at the King for lunch.
     As I was walking back to my car I thought about stopping some of the people hanging around outside with their ice cream and sandwiches to ask for interviews so I could post sound clips about how much they love the new feel of the place ... but then I realized they were so happy with their friends and families that I didn’t want to take the time to interrupt them with questions from a stranger.  Normally what I love about food options is how dynamic or “interesting” they are, but seeing how happy everyone was today reminded me of the pure joy to be found in simplicity. 
     Welcome back, Freez King.  Frederick missed you.

1303 North East Street, Frederick, MD 21701 (301) 624-2994 ‎

Monday, May 9, 2011

Two Paws Up!



    I apologize in advance for the brevity and lateness of this post today, but that is actually related to why Two Paws Up in downtown Frederick is my new regular pet store.  Normally I like to take my time with things, but today I was in a huge hurry and wanted to just run into a store quickly to pick up a new cat toy and food dish for a new kitten that we will be getting soon.  My family has always had an unfortunate tendency to gravitate toward those big corporate pet stores or the grocery store for supplies, but the first thing I noticed about Two Paws Up is how much more convenient it is than any of those bigger stores.

     As soon as you walk through their brightly-colored door, you notice there are employees standing right there ready to help you at the counter.  I can't tell you how many times I've just needed to run into a big pet store to grab a quick bag of food and had to first wander around looking for someone to help me find it.  Those big stores have isles and isles of things that would never interest me and just cause me headaches as I get lost in them.  I was worried that the small size of the nineteenth-century building that houses the store would translate into a drastically smaller selection, and while it does stick to the basics, I found that they have Everything that I will ever need for my pets -- Plenty of cat and dog toys, bowls, beds, collars, leashes, food, treats, and all reasonably priced and conveniently located.  I just pulled right up in front of the store, asked for what I needed, bought a small yarn ball and silver dish, and was on my way to deal with the rest of my busy life.
     I could tell by just glancing around that there is a lot more to say about this funky little pet store than its convenience and great service.  I would like to go back one day and talk with the owner about the specifics of their most popular products and the guiding philosophy of the business.

Two Paws Up
15 South Carroll St.
Frederick, MD 21701
301-668-7704
http://www.twopawsup.biz/

Friday, May 6, 2011

Frederick's Children Sing

Photos provided courtesy of The Frederick Children's Chorus

     The Frederick Childrens’ Chorus will present their Spring concert, “A World of Song” May 7, 2:30pm at Oakdale High School in Ijamsville.  Director Judy DuBose said that the concert, preformed by children ages 5 to 18, will feature a wide range traditional choral music from all over the world
     “The pieces that we have selected are pieces that are representative of the primary art forms of the various centuries throughout the world,” Mrs. DuBose said.  “Every piece that we’re doing has in some way fed into the art form that we consider music here in the United States, but it’s from all over the world.
     Some of the music will include the Korean folk song “Arirang,” the Italian “Gia Sole Dal Gange,” a Jazz piece called “Mary Had a Little Blues,” several American folks songs and much more.

The Benefits of Chorus
     Participating in music is great for people of all ages, but Mrs. DuBose believes it can play an especially positive developmental role in children. 
     “We haven’t really done the research on it, but we believe that it builds confidence and a sense of understanding teamwork as well as sense of responsibility to another group of people.  It’s not egocentric, it’s very much more a part of being a community,” she said.
     She also said that she believes it improves cognitive and mathematical abilities, as well as providing cultural education.
     “We’re fairly certain that the various cultures and languages that we learn assist children throughout their scholastic development,” she said.  “They can apply it to every facet of their education—everything from literature to world cultures and social studies and sciences and so forth.”
video

     I was in the Children’s Chorus from ages 12 to 13, and even though I didn’t have a gift for music and didn’t continue my musical education, I took away certain influences from it that have stayed with me until this day.  I still know musical terminology competently enough that I can discuss it when it comes up in conversation, and I can still read music well enough for following a church hymnal.  I also really appreciate some of the solid cultural background that I took from learning foreign-language songs.  I still remember the words to songs Mrs. DuBose taught me in Spanish, Latin, Hebrew, Portuguese, Greek, and Zulu.  I’m convinced that learning music like “Arroz con leche” and “Jubilate Deo” helped me later in my education with both Spanish and Latin class because I was already familiar with the Latin vowel pronunciation scheme.  That is a good thing because the Ph.D. programs to which I am applying require proficiency in Latin.
     Mrs. DuBose said that the alumni of her chorus have gone on to do great things, such as one student who is now a professor of neuroscience at Yale University.
video

Tradition vs. Modernity    
     In my experience, many choral directors and music teachers think the only way to interest modern students in music is by teaching them how to perform their favorite Pop songs.  The theory is that it’s impossible to get children, especially teenagers, to choose Franz Schubert over Britney Spears.  Mrs. DuBose has not found that to be the case. 
     I asked her how she keeps children interested in traditional music and she said, “You have to keep it alive.  You have to let them be part of what’s alive about it.  So understanding what they’re singing about is a huge part of it.  I think also knowing how to relate to the children and connect it to them, but more than that, just appreciating the art form and recognizing how it fits into the whole world of music and the many periods of music that we’ve lived through.”
     In my opinion, Pop music has its place, but it is not as complex and challenging to developing minds as the pieces they learn in Chorus.  It also doesn’t have the rich history nor contribute as strongly to educating children in cultural diversity as traditional music.  And considering that kids are pretty much bombarded by popular music anyway, the chorus would lose some of its value if it merely taught them what they already hear.
“The children love the music.  When we give them the music and their rehearsal recordings, they come back ready to sing,” Mrs. DuBose said.  “They love the challenge of singing it.  There are other elements that are much harder about running this organization than exciting the children about the music.”
video


Student Challenges
    In addition to the raw difficulties of leaning music itself, Mrs. DuBose feels that the biggest challenge to the children is simply making the time commitment.  The chorus only meets once a week for rehearsal, but as the students progress from the training chorus into the intermediate and concert choruses, the rehearsal time grows longer and they are expected to do more study and practice in their own time.  Mrs. DeBose says that it can be difficult for many students to make the time for musical study while trying to balance school and other extracurricular activities. 
     “I think that’s very hard these days when kids have so many options and so many activities they want to be involved in,” she said.
    
Operational Challenges
     Mrs. DuBose said that one of her greatest challenges is simply spreading the word about her organization.
     “I’m not sure very many people in the community know we’re even here.  It’s a very hard organization to publicize,” she said.  “The community has gotten larger and larger and as the media for how people receive information has changed, we’ve had to upgrade and change the method of distributing that information.”
     The number of children involved doesn’t have an absolute cap and has generally stayed large, but it ebbs and flows from year to year, making it difficult to make staffing decisions.
     “Last year we had a very low enrollment in training chorus and we had to really scramble to make sure we could not release any of our staff but give them valuable things to do and keep them involved,” she said.  “We have a very wonderful young staff.  They’re very invigorating, very enthusiastic with lots of wonderful skills.  When we have more children than we anticipate, we find another staff member to help us fulfill that commitment.”
     She said that her biggest headache is the budget.  She said that they are very fortunate in that the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ has let them use their space for rehearsal for 26 years without ever asking for money.  When the Chorus has a surplus year, they make a donation, when not they just send a thank-you note and the church has always received it with gratitude.
     To cover their other expenses, they have creative fundraisers.  They sell flowers and Chorus merchandise, receive sponsorship for ads in their programs, and have many private donors.
     But despite all of that stress, for Mrs. DuBose the rewards are priceless.
     “I come here after a day of teaching elementary school. I should be exhausted, but as soon as the kids start to sing, I completely shed all of that fatigue,” she said.  “They invigorate me. It’s the best part of it, is seeing how excited they are and just helping them to become more and more musical.”

The Frederick Children’s Chorus
10716 Etzler Mill Road
Woodsboro, MD 21798
Phone/Fax: 301-845-2451
Email: officemanager@fredcc.org
http://www.fredcc.org/index.htm

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pet Adoption in Frederick

video
Because animals need a home, too


     On a cold stormy night last November my family suffered the loss of our cat, Skittles, well before his time.  He made a dash for the open door, and while he had spent previous nights outside and always came back the next morning, this time days turned into weeks and months and we haven't seen a sign of our pretty orange and white kitty despite our best efforts looking for him.  He was only 12.
     Because life is difficult without something soft and furry purring in your lap and keeping mice out of the kitchen, we eventually accepted the loss and began to look for a new kitten to fill the terrible void.  My family was fortunate enough to discover that our friend's perfect cat just gave birth to four beautiful kittens, from which we will take a grey female named Gwynne when she is old enough to leave her mother in a few weeks.
     The sight of those cuddly creatures got me to thinking about families who might be looking for a new cat without the advantage of knowing a pregnant one.  So I took a trip to Frederick County Animal Control to speak with director Harold Domer about the ins and outs of pet adoption from the county.
     "What is extremely important to understand is our shelter here is the only shelter in Frederick County," he said.  "There are a number of animal welfare organizations.  There is a Humane Society.  There are a number of specific breed rescue organizations, but with reference to adoptions of animals within a shelter environment, we are it for Frederick County."
      I have to admit that I've felt a little put off from adopting a shelter animal in the past (Although my family has done it twice) with the thought of so many animals, about 6,000 per annum, being processed through that one tiny building.  I've worried that there is increased risk of disease and cabin fever for cooped up pets.  But what I didn't realize is how keenly aware the shelter is of all of these issues and how hard they work to alleviate them.
video

     Mr. Domer said that when animals are brought to the shelter, they are evaluated by a technician who determines their adoptability.  That means they are screened for diseases, injuries and personality defects, such as aggression, before going to the adoption area.  Once there, they are continually monitored by both staff and volunteers to ensure no problems arise before they are adopted.  To prevent them from going stir-crazy by confinement, volunteers regularly hold the cats and kittens, and walk the dogs and puppies in a large yard behind the shelter.  He said the shelter houses anywhere from 100 to 180 animals at a time, with usually more cats and kittens than dogs and puppies, especially in the Spring.  He said nearly 100% of adoptable animals find homes, but over 2,800 animals were deemed un-adoptable last year and sadly euthanized.
     The process of adoption begins when a person (whether they live in Frederick County or not) visits the shelter and finds a pet right for them.  To use Mr. Domer's words, "We want to make sure that it is a good mix for the family and the dog, cat, puppy or kitten," so they require that every member of the adopting household meet with the animal to determine compatibility.  The family is then asked to fill out an application that asks many questions about their living situation and previous pet history.  Mr. Domer prefers to see animals go to homeowners and if the adopting family lives in an apartment or other rented space, he wants to see permission from the landlord to adopt the pet.  The shelter staff will also call the family veterinarian to ask about the adopting family's previous history of pet ownership to determine if they are responsible with keeping their shots updated and so forth.  Mr. Domer suggested that first-time pet owners contact a veterinarian in advance of applying to adopt an animal to seek information about pet care.  This will demonstrate a propensity toward responsible pet ownership.
One cats wears another like a cloak
     Applicants are then interviewed by a staff-member or a trained volunteer at the shelter where they discuss matching up the pet's needs with the unique characteristics of the family.  This is far from a straightforward process because a person who may be suitable to own a cat may be less suitable to own a dog, or even a person who is right for a Beagle may not be right for a German Shepherd.  For example, a person with a small apartment who works most of the day might provide a fine home to cats because they tend to be more independent and less energetic.  The shelter would be cautious, however, in letting that same person raise a Saint Bernard because of their companionship and exercise needs.  However, Mr. Domer said that these guidelines are very flexible and they are good at listening to the case of each individual.
     "Somebody that might want to adopt a Saint-Bernard who lives in an apartment building, that would initially throw up a yellow flag, not necessarily a red flag," he said. "If that person is willing to show interest by assuring that dog's going to get exercise by walking it every day, we'll be understanding, but every once in a while somebody gets denied."
     A maximum of two applications are taken at a time for an adult animal and the first person to apply who qualifies takes the animal.  Four applications are taken for baby animals and they are carefully vetted to find the absolute best home-option available, not simply the first qualified one.
      When a family is finally approved to adopt, the animal is scheduled for surgical sterilization at the shelter, but they do not fulfill the new pet-owner's legal obligation to vaccinate the animal against rabbis.
      "The reason we don't rabbis vaccinate is we want the new adopter to continue to establish rapport with their new veterinarian so within three days of the adoption they try to schedule an appointment so the dog adopted from us gets to their vet, gets a general health exam and gets rabbis vaccinated," he said.  "Once that rabbis vaccination occurs, the adoption process and the adoption fees cover all those costs," which vary depending on the species and age of the animal.
     If in the rare instances that a family adopts a pet and discovers that the relationship isn't a good fit, Animal Control obligates the owner to return it to the shelter rather than give it away to a third party so that the shelter can have assurance of the pet being transfers to a good home.
     I know all of that seems like a lot to take in at first, especially since that process used to be easier as recently as 1999 when we adopted Skittles.  My mom jokes that it's become like adopting a child, but take it from me when I say that it's worth it.

     After Mr. Domer graciously gave his time to talk to me, I had a chance to walk into the adoption floor to see the pets-to-be up close.  I've played with pet-store animals in the past so I immediately recognized that these animals actually had a friendlier temperament than what I'm used to with designer breeds that cost a fortune.  One of the volunteers let me play with a Beagle puppy, and he had just about the most responsive personality I've ever seen in a dog.  He could sense the change from a playful, feisty mood, to a calm and affectionate one just based on my motions.  If we were looking for a new puppy, I would much rather pay the $150 in fees and go through a lengthy screening process for this gentle creature than pay over $1,000 at a pet store for a hyperactive hound.
     They don't expect a new batch of kittens for a few days, but the young cats I saw were also amazingly friendly for creatures stereotyped as standoffish.  Skittles captured our hearts because when we walked by his cage, he rolled over on his back and reached a paw out through the bars.  I saw more than one cat doing that as I walked through there today.  If that means the are anything like the cat we lost, then I know they will be perfect family companions for years to come, even to the family dog.
   
     If you are not in a position to adopt a new pet but would like to be around them and make their lives better, the shelter is always accepting volunteers for most positions, from floor-sweeper, to part-time puppy playmate.  They are also always short on funding to care for sick and injured animals, so they accept monetary donations as well.  Unlike many government agencies, they have a donation account that always rolls over into the next fiscal year.  If you would rather provide something more tangible, they also accept things like blankets, pillows and toys to make the animal cages more like little homes.

Frederick County Animal Control
1832 Rosemont Ave.
Frederick, MD 21702
Ph: (301) 600-1546
Fax: (301) 600-1547
www.petfinder.com
www.pettango.com