‘Real-life room’ helps shelter dogs find homes

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COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. -- A new feature at one Mid-South animal shelter could give homeless dogs a second chance at life.

The "real-life room" at the Collierville Animal Shelter is already being credited with finding one pup her forever home.

It’s easy to fall in love with their sweet faces, but all that barking and jumping tends to turn off some potential adopters.

"Everybody walks by very fast because of their screeching barks," said shelter director Nina Wingfield.

That’s the case with Chihuahuas Opal and Valentine.

And the same rang true for 5-year-old Juliet.

"She did not like people coming up to her cage," Wingfield said. "She was very vocal, very jumpy, and everybody walked by. ... People didn’t see her good side."

Juliet spent about three months at the shelter before Wingfield got the idea for a “real-life room," giving people the chance to get to know the pets in a more natural setting, as opposed to just peering at them through a cage.

"They’re more secure, more relaxed in here," she said.

Wingfield bought a couch at Goodwill, bought lots of dog toys and hung some pictures to make it feel more like home.

"It just changed the whole atmosphere of the room," she said.

And within a day or two, Juliet was adopted.

"In a real-life room, you learn just how they’re going to be," Wingfield said. "It was a huge success with Juliet."

WREG checked it out for ourselves when we visited the shelter Saturday.

When we first walked in to say "hi" to Opal and Valentine, they seemed a little out of control.

But as soon as we sat down in the “real-life room," their behavior changed.

"That’s their home, and people are coming in and staring at them," Wingfield said. "And in here, they’re in a more relaxed environment."

The feature has been in place for about six weeks, and Wingfield hopes it will lead to even more success stories, like Juliet’s.

To browse the animals up for adoption at the Collierville Animal Shelter, visit http://awos.petfinder.com/shelters/tn167.html.

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