Los Angeles, CA

Pet Orphans: Changing Lives, One Dog at a Time

Joel Eisenberg

KOKOJoel Eisenberg

Over a dozen years ago, my wife and I adopted ”Persia” from Pet Orphans, a Van Nuys, California-based animal shelter and rescue. We quickly gave her a new moniker — “KOKO,” meaning KO KO as derived from boxing parlance, or “Double Knockout.”

KOKO is a boxer-pit. As you can see from the photo, her ears are cut. What you do not see is her full-length tail remains.

I share this for a reason. When we visited Pet Orphans of Southern California for the purpose of rescuing a dog, we fell in love with this energetic mix. Neither my wife nor I have owned dogs since we were children. We were told by a Pet Orphan employee “Persia’s” future was uncertain, as there is only so much space in Los Angeles rescue shelters. Due to her lack of ears and a remaining full-tail, in her six months at the shelter no one would adopt her.


We asked for an elaboration. “Persia” arrived at the shelter wearing a studded leather dog collar and she was bred to fight. The former owners had cut her ears but elected to leave the tail, apparently believing no one would want her when they were done with her.

To my recollection, she was herself rescued, having been found and turned in by a neighbor. Following some social anxiety-related issues, “Persia” became one of the pack at Pet Orphans and enjoyed the company of other dogs.

When my wife and I arrived, she made eye contact with the two of us right away and we knew right away she would become our new family member. The employees were thrilled; had become very popular with all the employees as she was immensely playful with boundless energy.

The former “Persia” was fated to indeed become our rescue.

See here for my prior NewsBreak article on the matter, “My Wife and I Did Not Rescue a Dog. She Rescued Us.”

I meant every word of that title.


Name change to “KOKO” and all, our rescue indeed became family to my wife and I. She adapted to us quickly; though trainers tend to agree that a dog’s “smile” is more of an affectation for which one knows they will be rewarded, KOKO’s expression as portrayed in this article’s feature photo rarely wavers. When she shakes her tail with that grin, which is often, whether she is truly smiling in the human sense or not we take it as a positive.

KOKO is 12 now. She is getting up there in dog years but our neighbors still believe she is a puppy. She still looks very much the same — save for white eyebrows — and her energy has not dipped a bit. We are told by friends she always appears very happy.

There is little science to any of this. We love KOKO and the way she looks and reacts to us makes it known she loves us as well.

For those reading this piece who live in the Southern California area, contact Pet Orphans of Southern California. For further information, please visit their website, https://petorphans.org.

For those of you reading this outside of the state of California, visit your local shelter today. More than one life will be forever changed by your effort.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA

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