DURING HER first temperament test, Penelope hid under a chair. That was a week ago, after her owner surrendered her at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control. The owner was moving and unable to take Penelope with her.
A week is a long time here. Dogs are social creatures, and shelter life runs counter to their nature. Out in the world, dogs face cues that precede interaction: they see a person, they receive pats on the head; they hear noises, they investigate. But in a shelter, stimulation is followed by isolation, inaction. The environment can break a dog’s spirits, sometimes irrevocably. A dog can deteriorate mentally in a shelter in about two weeks, until it’s no longer capable of calming down. Some dogs handle it longer than that; other dogs last just days before the stress conquers them.
Penelope’s lucky. During her first week, she received training sessions, walks, and playtime with other dogs. She’s grown confident, happy. So Karen Owens, a trainer at Animal Care and Control, wants to evaluate Penelope again to update her profile for potential adopters.
This time, Penelope’s ready for her test. She sits at the end of her leash, looking up at Karen, awaiting instructions. Penelope is pure mutt, more closely resembling a character in a cartoon than an entrant in a dog show. She has a curled tail, an under bite, big round eyes, and a wrinkly brow. She looks perpetually on the verge of a big idea.