I visited Joy at the shelter before agreeing to adopt her. I met other rescues who behaved the way we’re conditioned to believe a ‘dream doggie’ should: bounding up with tails wagging, eager to lick and snuggle me. Joy, on the other hand, was skittish, made no eye contact, and didn’t seem to understand that human touch was meant to convey affection. She spent the visit nervously darting back and forth, shying away when stroked. All the same, Joy not only seemed good-natured and energetic, but was clearly one of the pups that needed the most help.

Joy has progressed by leaps and bounds since...She’s a jolt of bright energy: spirited, playful, and (usually!) obedient. I’m probably anthropomorphizing her, but she’s so affectionate that it’s almost as if she remembers what it’s like to be on the underside of privilege and is grateful for where she is now. Those other dogs I saw at the shelter would’ve been easy picks, but it was the standoffish pup who only needed some training, a few delicious treats, and a dash of patience to become my version of a ‘dream doggie’.

Since Joy spent the first part of her life locked in a cage, she’s overpowered by the sounds and scents of a world that is brand new to her…I love the studious fascination with which she inspects pine cones, dry crunchy leaves, and patches of moss for the first time. She’s proven to be frighteningly clever. JoJo has become my most reliable de-stresser…in the purity and simplicity of my exchanges with her, I find a stillness in which complex thought dissolves and I can easily access the most tender side of myself. And talk about getting a hero’s welcome - whether I’m stepping back in from a multi-hour errand or just from taking out the trash, Joy acts like I’ve returned from the Apollo moon landing.