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Mochi Starborn

Korean Jindo Dog Rescue

Date of Birth (estimated):


Date of US Arrival:

Date of Adoption:

April 2017

Favorite Snacks:

Duck faces, Beef lungs, and Salmon skins

A Bit About Mochi

Mochi is a Korean Jindo dog that was rescued from a Korean meat market. We often ponder if he was stolen from a family home, if he was always a street dog, or if he had been bred on a farm. Although he had a rough start to life, you would only know it by the physical scars he has. In true Jindo form, we were told the poor thing had held his bladder and bowels for 18 hours during the plane flight! It's no wonder that when he got off the plane we're told it looked as if he knew he got to start a new life. It took almost 5 years but his triggers are a thing of the past and he is generally a happy boy.  


He now enjoys sleeping and snacks like any other American pup, though he still doesn't quite know how to 'play'.  Mochi was one of the lucky dogs... Long live Jindo Gae!

PTSD Timeline

December 2016 - April 2017

April 2017 (Week 1)

April 2017 (Week 2)

April 2017 (Weeks 3 - 4)

May 2017 (Weeks 5 - 12)

June 2017 (Week 13)

July 2017 (Week 14)

September 2017 (Month 6)

November 2017 (Month 8)

December 2017 (Month 9)

January 2018 (Month 10)

February 2018 - Present

Mochi (then known as Riley) was rehabilitated in the US by Tails to the Wind Rescue. This was a very important time for him to learn safety and how to live in a home instead of a cage on the street! It was helpful for him to have a kennel as his safe space and be around other dogs during his rehabilitation. He showed little to no aggression around people and other animals.   

Mochi was a bit nervous after leaving Nini's house and whined on the drive from LA to Las Vegas. I worked from home the first week to make sure he was able to adjust to his new environment. We did not have children or other animals to distract from developing a bond with Mochi. We lived in an apartment so the noises were very triggering and he would whine, pace, and shake whenever he heard chimes, dings, or bells. He was very clean and mild mannered in true Jindo form. We walked him up to five times a day to build a bond with him and get him used to a leash. Mochi would not be in the same room as us while we were home. We would kennel him at night and when we left anywhere. He was not eating regularly but we would feed him after us to try and establish dominance early on.

I so clearly remember the first day I left Mochi's kennel open while I was at the office, nervous I would come home to broken furniture, chewed shoes, and urine or worse! Alas, everything was in place and Mochi was sleeping in the spare bedroom upon my arrival home. He wouldn't greet you at the door this early on. He wouldn't even eat from my hands. He was walk motivated, so the only time I could get close was to put his leash on. That second week, I would leave the kennel door open and allow him to come and go as he pleased. I would make sure to feed him after his first and last walk to try to get him on a schedule. 

Due to a family emergency, I am forced to leave Mochi at a sitter's house. She let's me know he is friendly with other animals and shows no signs of aggression.

Mochi is finally getting on a feeding schedule and we've settled on 3 walks a day. Now that he is on a schedule and we know when he will likely be hungry, I try feeding him kernels and treats by hand. Using high value treats (the super smelly, moist ones he doesn't get very often) as a lucrative training tool helps us build trust. He is still standoffish and moves when we come into the same room. Noticeably, he will not lay down with humans around but is on high alert sitting or standing. He will not let you pet him unless he is on the leash and forced to be near. His best defense is how wiggly and squirmish he is, as he easily Houdini's himself out of harnesses when he's distressed. 

We take him to the dog park for the first time. He is scared and doesn't know that he can freely travel around the park. He sticks to the entrance and paces back and forth unsure of what to make of it. 

We enroll Mochi in a 2 month training program. It is apparent that he isn't like the other dogs. Mochi is distracted in class and won't listen because he is on alert. Mochi is extremely nervous in class, he is confused and won't take treats. Over the full length of the class, he learns to sit, stay, leave it, ok (take it), and lie down. We work on 'come here' off the leash but notice his triggers will always overpower the command if he is scared.  

At home, we realize we can fully trust Mochi and he rarely stays in his kennel. We sell the kennel and he finds many nap spots around the house. He becomes used to his routine and gets excited for his walks by running to the door when we grab the leash. He begins trusting us more as evidenced by staying in the same room with us when we are relaxing. Mochi still does not understand apartment noises (or noises from the TV) and quivers in a corner whenever he is scared. We show him he can trust us by moving into the room he is posted up in when he reacts this way. Just sitting in the same room as your scared Jindo rescue is helpful when they are triggered. 

After training, I felt as though I understood Mochi more than ever before. He was not aggressive, he was just afraid and untrusting. I decide to take a risk and hug him for the first time. Mochi accepts my embrace and this is how I teach him to accept love. He won't often ask for love, but the great thing about having an independent Jindo dog is that you get to bug them with kisses on your time when you want (not the other way around). This was the first time I felt comfortable hugging him, kissing him, and giving him close attention without feeling like I would push him away. I realized he wouldn't come looking for it, but really enjoyed feeling my touch. I could tell he loved being loved because he would close his eyes (showing trust) and his forehead would get warm to the touch when we would pet him and kiss him there.  

We find that Mochi was triggered by the strangest things; bicycle bells, chimes, dings, bird calls, arguing and yelling, but most of all... fireworks. Poor Mochi would erratically scratch and lunge when he heard fireworks. He would shiver uncontrollably and whine incessantly until his nerves were calmed. We sit with him, embrace him, and pet him with sweet whispers of encouragement when he is triggered by past traumas. We feel that his triggers likely developed from memories of the Summer Bok Nal celebrations in which dog is eaten during the hottest days of the year as he is especially upset by these noises in the heat of Summer.   

Also... water. He is extremely fearful of drinking water and being wet. He never drinks water at the dog park and will even suspiciously sniff water at home (keeping his body away from it) before drinking. We have to pick him up and bring him to the bath tub to bathe him and he urinates out of fear and shakes the whole time. We feel this is likely from his awareness that many dogs were boiled alive near him in his past.  

Mochi goes on his first camping trip and kayaks for the first time! We find that although he hates the water, kayaking has become a great bonding experience to build trust with him. Although the water is traumatizing, every time he is exposed to other dogs enjoying something he has fear based anxiety around, he becomes more confident in participating. Making him sleep in the tent with us is a perfect way to get him to move closer to snuggling, which he does not naturally participate in yet. We can snuggle him, yet he doesn't come close to us to ask for it. Sleeping together in close quarters helped him feel comfortable with being in close proximity while in a vulnerable state.  

At 6 months in, he is now familiar with the dog park and his favorite thing to do is mark his territory there. Mochi ignores other dogs when he sees them at the park or on walks. He doesn't leave the room when we come in and he is now able to lay down comfortably when we are in the near vicinity. We've been working on his commands and he is able to go for walks off leash within our shared grassy apartment lawns. He is still triggered often and will react with shaking and whining uncontrollably.   

Mochi goes to the mountains and gets his first taste of the snow! We rented a cabin apartment in Tahoe with family and friends for Thanksgiving and Mochi gets loved on all weekend long. Turkey snacks from friends help him get used to other people, otherwise he is very standoffish and aloof when others try to give him attention. Rewarding him with food from others and allowing them to walk him greatly helps him get used to trusting other people. 

He is very upset about hearing the noises of the floor above us, but the best we can do is comfort him with pets and sweet nothings when he's triggered. 

At this point, Mochi has met most of our family and friends at least 2-3 times. He still stays away and doesn't always take treats from them (unless they are really tasty high value treats). He will swerve friends and family if they try to pet him, unless they are comfortable giving him a big hug to force their love on him. He occasionally will urinate or defecate when he's nervous around new people. 

After making a quick stop to shop in Primm on our way to LA for New Years Eve, we return to the car to find that Mochi is no longer in the car. Our hearts sink as we realize we are tasked with finding him, dead or alive. Read about our journey of recovering Mochi in the Mojave Dessert here, it's a story you'll never forget!

Upon Mochi's return, it takes him a few weeks to recover. In the meantime his personality is masked by his will to survive as he is still in 'survivor' mode. This is a huge setback for us as he reverts back to some of his isolating behaviors.

Since Mochi's return, his triggers get less and less of his attention. He used to have severe reactions similar to a panic attack including shaking / shivering, panting, pacing, and whining. These responses seem to pass with each year of living a normal dog life. We have seen improvements in his behaviors following countless playdates at the dog park and being left with dog-sitters who have non-rescued dogs around. He could almost pass as an "American dog" these days! 


Though he is much better, we've had to accept that Mochi will always have heightened anxiety in new situations. We feel that prolonged exposure to triggers in a safe space have helped him overcome these attacks. For example, Mochi would get so upset anytime he heard the bicycle bell in the intro of "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia", but now he could care less. We've also seen him warm up to family and friends after spending time with them. We notice that despite accepting treats and pets from other people, he is still partial to his caretakers Margaux and Jonathon.   

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