Tails wagged and lifelong friendships were formed yesterday at a venue where would-be pet owners fall in love by looking into puppy-dog eyes.

“From the moment he touched me, I knew he was my dog,” said Edmonton Pet Expo producer Louise Reinich. “My tummy fluttered, my chest got tight and I knew it was love. He put his paws on me and I was done.”

Dre, Reinich’s Akita-Labrador cross, was rescued three years ago from a First Nations reserve by volunteers from Paws and Claws Animal Rescue Foundation before he was brought to the event.

Reinich’s story is not unique, she said, adding she’s seen the annual exhibition serve as the first step in successful pet adoptions for nine straight years.

The show’s mission, she said, is to enhance the lives of animals through education and to provide would-be pet owners with expert advice on preparing their lives for a furry, feathery or scaly new friend.

“It’s key for the animals and the people involved. We see a lot of difficulties when it’s not a good match or people pick a pet spontaneously. This is a huge responsibility.”

Though volunteers from the Humane Animal Rescue Team said their foster homes are packed, none of their dogs left the expo with new families yesterday.

“The dogs just keep coming in faster than the people who can help out,” volunteer Josh McKay said.

Despite the urgent situation, HART maintains a rigorous screening process.

The group is presently fostering 35 pets, 23 of which are puppies.

“It has to be the right fit,” McKay said. “If the feeling is good, then we’ll let the dogs go.”