Just eight months into the job, Cameron Shoppach has become the face of the Indiana animal shelter where he works.
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The 31-year-old is known as IndyHumane’s “Dangler in Chief,” posting viral videos on TikTok and Instagram as he puts dogs to the dangle test. That is, whether they allow themselves to hang loose in his arms or wriggle away to freedom.
Dangling is a temperament test normally used for cats, he told USA TODAY on Friday. He thought it’d be fun to try it with the “sweet” dogs he works with each day at IndyHumane.
Not only do the videos showcase the dogs’ personalities but they help them find forever homes.
“I can show dogs that kind of get overlooked,” Shoppach said.
Dangle test is not a pass/fail
Shoppach said that the dangle tests are not a pass or fail situation. Just because an animal doesn’t dangle, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad pet.
Shoppach said that many potential dog owners only see dogs for a brief moment as they come to the front of the Indianapolis kennel, making it difficult to get to know them and their personalities.
His videos combat that and help give new owners a window to their future with a new dog.
In the most popular video Shoppach has posted to TikTok, he struggles to get a rambunctious pup named Cactus to stop running around so he can be dangled. Finally, Shoppach is able to grab Cactus, pick him up under the armpits and swing him from side to side as the dog wriggles a bit.
“It’s not perfect but that’s a good dangle,” Shoppach declares.
‘Dangler in Chief’ gets to know animals before putting them to the test
Shoppach left Austin, Texas, and moved to Indiana about eight months ago, he said. His wife is a veterinarian at IndyHumane.
He facilitates playgroups with the dogs and also gets to know them.
Some are closed off and others are what he calls “bomb-proof.” Dogs considered bomb-proof are typically OK with all sorts of activity. They have good self-control and let everything roll off their backs. Service dogs are a good example.
Learning about the dogs is one of the most important parts of Shoppach’s duties, said shelter CEO Donna Casamento.
Between foster care and their on-site facility, there are 126 dogs and just over 100 cats at the shelter, she said.
“My goal for him is that he gets to just play with dogs all day long and that’s the best enrichment that we can provide for them,” she said. “That gives us the best opportunity to learn as much about the animal and in what kind of a home they’ll be successful.”
A ‘Does it Dangle’ success story
One dog that comes to mind for the dog dangler is Theo, a black pit bull who was adopted and brought back a few months ago. He is terrified of men, Shoppach said.
“(He) would barely let me near him without being terrified,” he recalled.
He worked with Theo for two to three months to get him comfortable. Then, he began roughhousing and being more playful with Shoppach. He eventually tried to dangle the dog and it worked.
Theo loves and trusts him, so he considers the dog a success story.
“He’s getting much better, getting more confident, and there’s more volunteers that can handle him,” he said.
Theo is still waiting to meet his new parents.
Dangle tests are drawing adopters
About 20 animals have been adopted directly or indirectly due to the shelter’s videos, Shoppach said.
If people arrive asking about a specific pet that’s no longer available, Shoppach shows them other animals that still need new homes.
The dangle videos have also helped the shelter raise about $5,500 through fundraisers, which helps a ton since they are currently trying to raise money for Operation Pitstop, a program to get 300 dogs spayed and neutered since the area is so saturated with large bully breeds.
The shelter posts mainly dog dangle videos but there are a few cat ones.
The dangle videos have won over the hearts of many social media users.
“I knew Beans would dangle,” wrote one Instagram user on a recent dangle video. “He’s a happy pittie baby!”
‘A nice little serotonin boost’
Shoppach said seeing responses from the public has been “super overwhelming.”
“I was not prepared … to see so many people so passionate and positive,” he said. “It has definitely been a nice little serotonin boost to see an entire goofy community of people all just smiling and thumbs up and laughing.”
Casamento stressed that dangling a dog is not something she recommends trying unless you have an established relationship with the dog. (It works for Shoppach because the animals know him and they interact every day.)
She also said the dangle videos have helped push back against the stigma surrounding bully breeds such as pit bulls.
“This is breaking down the stigma of these dogs that people think, ‘Oh, they’re scary,’” Casamento said. “It’s about developing a relationship with them. We’re fortunate to have Cameron … It’s exciting to watch him interact and play with these dogs and see them start to come out of their shells.”
Keep up with the Dangler in Chief at www.instagram.com/does.it.dangle and firstname.lastname@example.org.