The Transformation of Mocha

All dogs who come through our doors are individuals, and their behavior is influenced by their history, their genetics and breed group, their age, gender, health, sexual status, and unique personality. But what they all share in common is the environment that they’re entering. A shelter environment, even at it’s very best, is a hard one for dogs. Some dogs, based on the influences mentioned above, seem to fare better than others. They adapt to their conditions to some degree. But for others, shelter life is more than they can cope with. Mocha was one of these dogs.

Mocha was a young adult when his owner could no longer care for him and turned him over to us.  We soon discovered that his default behavior, when excited or stressed, was to use his mouth on any leash or human body part within reach. Given his strength and quick-to-arouse tendencies, he became a challenge to manage  when moving him in and out of his kennel.  But once out of his kennel, he showed his other side. He was incredibly easy to train with great focus, high motivation, and total engagement with us. He eventually found adopters who were willing to continue to work with him, and we sent him home. The reports were all positive for the first week or so until he went after a neighborhood cat who wandered into the yard. The incident was upsetting enough to these very kind adopters who were then concerned for the safety of other neighborhood cats and felt it best to return him.

After he came back, his stress levels returned and actually increased, making it hard for him to ever calm down or relax.  We provided enrichment, decompression walks, medication, and kept moving him around within our kennel rooms in an effort to find the least stressful location for him. Even with all that, his quality of life was deteriorating. That was about the time Nena stopped by the shelter.  She was very much missing a dog in her life after her senior dog had passed. When she saw Mocha, she was immediately drawn to him. He looked like the female dog she had lost. But there was one big problem; Nena’s significant other had made it very clear he did not want another dog!

As Nena visited with Mocha, we could see her struggling  between her rapidly growing love of Mocha and the knowledge of her partner’s opposition to any adoption. We felt badly for her.  But when she eventually turned to us and said, “I love this dog and I want to adopt him, my partner will learn to love him too!” we had our own conflict since past experience has shown this often doesn’t go as hoped and animals get brought back.  To avoid those situations, we ask that all family members meet the dog and be in agreement before adopting. But this was a unique situation. Mocha desperately needed a chance; Nena seemed willing to give him that chance, and there was always a chance it might work, so we said, “Yes.” Nena called her partner before leaving to give him the news, and he didn’t hit the roof. In fact, his reaction gave Nena some reassurance as she loaded Mocha into her car.

We heard from Nena the next day. She shared a picture of Mocha stretched out asleep on the floor with his toy and a text message saying: “He is precious; I love him sooo much!”

And her partner who didn’t want a dog? Mocha has become his wingman, his constant companion. They go out on the boat, have play dates with dog friends, and just enjoy being together. Nena says, “He loves him and will even allow him to sleep with us!” All updates since that first day have been great. Mocha has found his heavenly spot with two wonderful people. We are so grateful!


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