Public Comment

This Heart Needs a Home By PATRICIA LESLIE

Friday December 24, 2004

Kokoro’s name means “heart,” and indeed her loving heart is continually opening and unfolding like a lotus blossom. But she has not been easy to place in the perfect “forever” home. She needs someone to be her patient “pack leader,” cherishing her courageous heart and soul, taking joy in her high spirits, respecting her sensitive emotional nature, and delighting in helping her reach her full potential. 

This story began in Los Angeles, Autumn 2000. As a city pound puppy, Kokoro was adopted by a family who weren’t looking for a household companion—just a live burglar alarm. They stuck her in a backyard pen and neglected her for the next three years. So she never had a chance to meet and play with puppies, dogs, or cats during the crucial formative months. As a result, while she is loving with people, she is not socialized to other animals, and must forever be an only companion.  

During Kokoro’s third year, the older boy became ill. My friend Alice began assisting the family. She also befriended the attractive but sad dog out in back behind the chain-link fence. She suggested that if they didn’t care about her, it would be better to find her another home. The answer was always, “We need it to bark if someone gets into the yard.” Alice lost touch with the family that summer. Then in late September they decided to move, and suddenly phoned Alice, giving her one day to “come get the dog if you want it.” 

But this was only a short-term rescue, since Alice already had cats and rabbits at home. And to become adoptable, this dog would need a lot of training. My husband Karl and know dog training, have fostered dogs before, and our “doggie guest room” was empty. It made sense for us to shoulder Alice’s burden. So Kokoro arrived on November 1, 2003. Despite lifelong mistreatment, her willingness to trust us was astonishing. 

Vets and trainers had theorized that she was a (Japanese) shiba inu mix, so I gave her a Japanese name. After some months, we discovered that she is actually a Korean jindo. (This explained why, at 36 pounds, she is twice as big as a shiba.) Jindos are known for loyal devotion to home, family, and territory—much like other curly-tailed Asian breeds, such as akitas and chow-chows. They were historically used for hunting small animals and guarding property. It seems they mostly had to fend for themselves, resulting in natural selection for toughness, hardiness, and intelligence. They’re also a bit “wild at heart,” with a stronger prey drive than most companion breeds. 

Naturally clever, Kokoro caught on rapidly to her training. Over the months I expanded her challenges, taking her to busy places like Solano Avenue and Cesar Chavez Park. Now, after a year, she is a very different dog—except where other animals are concerned. Kokoro’s key issue is that she sees “her” humans—those providing affection and security—as the resource to guard. She isn’t possessive of food or toys—but she goes into a jealous rage at the sight of another animal getting friendly attention from “her” people. This is why she must be an only companion. Even so, she handles casual contact (like a loose dog running up) with wonderful restraint. 

By spring Kokoro was ready for a home, so we listed her on several dog-adoption websites. Only frustration resulted. 

Kokoro is funny, sweet and charming—but like most of us, she comes with a few issues and limitations. Her future person must be willing to make a lifetime commitment to working through them, or around them. Of course, her “special needs” include someone familiar with dog psychology—having, perhaps, lived with and loved a “difficult” dog before. Kokoro’s ideal companion will be someone who appreciates the rewarding symbiosis of the training process—a lifetime of making discoveries together, and educating each other.  

If you are interested in exploring a permanent relationship with Kokoro, please call me at 527-3273.›