Sometimes, it takes a young mind to teach us all a new trick — like how to save a dog's life.
Consider 13-year-old Aiden Horwitz, a student at Austin Jewish Academy in Texas. She's been mulling a question that's as timeless as it is tragic: Why do dogs get adopted only to be returned?
There are, of course, all kinds of good reasons why a dog doesn't work out in a new home — and no shortage of terrible reasons.
But Horwitz identified a simple, common thread. The kind of dog — with a certain nature and certain needs — just doesn't align with those of the family that took her home.
"Pretty much over half the dogs that are in shelters are because people get the wrong kind of dog for their family," the eighth-grader told Texas news outlet KXAN.
So how do you make sure a shelter dog's needs are aligned as closely as possible to those of her prospective family?
After months of researching the subject, Horwitz came up with the idea for a new system, one that poses 13 questions to the adopter, including whether they have kids and what they're prepared to do for a furry new family member. All of those metrics get churned into a score for that family, and that score is weighed against traits identified in specific types of shelter dogs, like terriers or non-sporting dogs.
Ultimately, Horwitz's system became the basis for her website, DogDoOrDogDont.org, which dramatically reduces the pool of potential dogs for adopters. While the number of options will be much smaller, the idea is to also significantly reduce the number of dogs returned to sender.
"I wanted to come up with a way to help get dogs adopted or help people get the right dog for them and their family," Horwitz writes on her website. "I decided to create this survey so people could get an idea for what breed of dog would be a good fit for their lifestyle."
Horwitz's system doesn't shy away from starkly honest assessments either. Score too low and you should probably forget about a dog. How about a cat instead?
The website currently partners with local rescue group Austin Pets Alive, matching scores with Austin dogs looking for a home.
But Horwitz is looking to take her system to shelters throughout the state. By building those partnerships, she'll not only be saving lives but building families that stay together.