It’s not easy to find the right family member on a deadline. That’s why I normally can’t abide the concept of last-minute holiday season pets. How can anyone possibly find the best possible pet in a month or less?

Since I’m a woman of a certain age, I think I can offer the following wise analogy born of much painful observation on behalf of my sex: It’s like looking for a mate while your brain is addled by a certain ticking din. The confounding noise makes for less than ideal matchmaking.

I should know. For the last six months I’ve been looking for the perfect family companion for my brother’s young family. They’ve been looking on their own but, truth be told, their pet-based resources are considerably more limited than mine. When I need legal advice I know where to turn. When animal issues arise, it’s tit for tat. That’s how family’s supposed to work, right?

Problem is, finding the ideal match is not so easy when you’re working with the constraints I’m facing:

#1 Calm, easy demeanor...but playful, nonetheless

#2 Great with kids

#3 A youngish adult

#4 Less than 25 pounds or so

#5 Short-ish, no-grooming-needed fur

#6 Healthy (goes without saying but not always so easy given my sources)

#7 Crate trained and housebroken (negotiable to some extent)

#8 Preferably female (but potentially negotiable, too)

Sounds doable, right? Well...sort-of. Every potential family pet I’ve met (and I’ve seen hundreds of hopefuls by now) has gotten cut from contention based on some feature or other. #1 and #2 have been especially tough. It’s impressive to see how many smaller adult dogs suffer from a basic fear of smaller humans. Or a basic fearfulness in general. So sad.

By the time I walked into the PetSmart yesterday for their busy pre-holiday adopt-a-pet event, I had already whittled down my choices to one: A certain rat terrier mix named Wilson. Problem is, Wilson doesn’t quite meet the two last [negotiable] points listed above. Though otherwise wonderful, he’s not exactly house-trained (or female, for that matter). But no one’s perfect, right?

Here's a pic of the event:

Here's Wilson playing in his crate at the event:

When what to my wondering eyes should appear....but a beagle-terrier mix named Leilani: Female. A year old. Kid-friendly. Eighteen pounds. Calm when held but playful when engaged. Perfect...except for her heart.

Leilani had surgery a couple of months ago for her heart problem, a perfectly fixable “PDA” (patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital defect where a lung-circumventing fetal vessel doesn’t close down like it should). Now that a board-certified cardiologist repaired it, it’s 100% fixed. Problem is, the requisite disclosure of such a problem, regardless of its resolution, scares potential adopters away. But not me.

Next step? The whole family gets to come together to meet the new dog. Is it meant to be? Let’s just hope that last-minute finds really do work out sometimes.