In rescue, happiness sells (but other tactics work too)

Joyful Jojo

I’ve heard it too many times and from too many people to not believe it: When it comes to adoption, happiness sells. That should mean good news for Jojo. As my friend Renee would say, that dog’s got a jolly soul. It’s nearly impossible to catch him when he’s not waggling away at the front of his kennel, smiling and ready to make your acquaintance.

However, as I sermonized several months ago: Getting dogs adopted — heck, raising awareness of animal welfare in general — isn’t one size fits all. For some of us sensitive bleeding hearts, motivation kicks in at the recognition of suffering.

In Jojo’s case, it wasn’t a horrifying history of abuse or obvious physical scars that sent my empathy meter into the red zone. It was simply witnessing his post-walk anxiety: this boy is desperate to avoid returning to his kennel.

Jojo says thank you

Treats are powerless. Coaxing is futile. As soon as that kennel door comes into focus, Jojo’s sturdy hocks grind to a halt in a frantic attempt to keep from going in. He’ll run through his roster of behaviors — ordinarily the key to a desired outcome — offering sits and downs aplenty, and the softest, sweetest eyes you could ever imagine. Please don’t lock me up, he seems to say. Please don’t leave me.

Several volunteers have taken to sitting with him in his kennel, trying to reinforce (introduce?) the idea that the kennel is a safe, warm, happy place. We leave him with stuffed Kongs or interactive toys — mental stimulation to get him through the longer stretches.

I know: There’s practically a new one every time you hit refresh. But this affectionate, beautiful boy is my current shelter favorite. He’s grateful for every tidbit of attention he receives, revels in each connection. He’s been with Berkeley Animal Care Services since October, and it’s time for him to step outside his kennel for good, never to have to return.

Think you’d like to provide a loving home for Jojo? Contact Berkeley Animal Care Services; for more information, check Jojo’s adoption page.

PS. Fair warning for anyone interested: Jojo is strong, but we’re diligently working with him to curb those on-leash pulling tendencies. And because he’s a typical Pit Bull — smart and eager to please — progress is steadily apparent.