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Guest Post: A Love Letter to Shanoa

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I asked readers to write a love letter to their DINOS and picked a winning essay.  Throughout February, I’ll be sharing all of the entries.

Here’s what Nicole wrote:

Love.  Devotion.  Enthusiasm. 

My three-year-old Doberman, Shanoa, is a DINOS, and she brings me joy every day.  She came to me as a not-quite-five-month-old puppy, afraid of the whole world.  From day one, I knew that we had a huge challenge ahead of us.  As a young pup Shanoa had no socialization, and didn’t trust anyone or anything.  Walks were a no-go.  New people were a cause for terror.  Kids were scary.  Bicycles and skateboards were monsters.  The only thing she wasn’t afraid of was other Dobermans! 

Luckily, we found help.  It has been (and sometimes continues to be) a huge struggle.  We have used Leslie McDevitt’s “Control Unleashed” methods to help Shanoa with her fears.  Slowly, we were able to help Shanoa with her fears.  We learned techniques to help her feel safe.  We taught her that not only were most things not scary, but most things were awesome (lots of delicious, stinky treats helped!). 


In the nearly three years we’ve lived with Shanoa, she’s been transformed.  My shy, frightened puppy has become a (relatively) normal dog.  The transformation, for us, is nothing short of miraculous.  For the first year and a half that we lived with her, Shanoa never wagged her tail.  I will never forget the first tentative sweeps of her cute little nub as we played outside.  Her nub wags almost non-stop, now.  The most important lesson she’s learned is that she can trust us to protect her. 

Does she appreciate strange dogs in her face?  Absolutely not.  But she knows that I will protect her from them and that she can trust me to make sure she doesn’t need to interact with them.  And that’s my most important job – to protect her.  I do my job, and now she has a job, too. 

Just this past summer, she passed the Delta Therapy Dog evaluation and was registered with the Delta Society as a therapy dog.  She visits hospice patients at various facilities here in Minnesota.  She goes from person to person, giving kisses and wagging her tail, resting her chin on their knees to make sure everyone gets a chance to pet her.


And when we get home, she makes sure to get as close to me as she possibly can, occupying the same space as I am if at all possible, as we relax and watch some TV.  She snuggles with me as much as possible.  She has even figured out how to turn on the electric blanket and get underneath it to stay warm in the Minnesota winter.  Because of her, I’ve gotten involved in our local Doberman rescue, and have been able to help out volunteers with foster dogs who are DINOS. 

Without Shanoa, I wouldn’t be the person I am.  She’s made me a better trainer.  She’s taught me patience.  She’s shown incredible forgiveness for the mistakes I make in training with her.  She approaches everything I ask her to do with enthusiasm, even if it’s something she’d prefer not to do (really?  another down/stay?).  She’s always eager to figure out something new.  She’s made me a better person and she makes me happy every day.

  1. Great letter!

    How funny, I saw the title of this in my blogpost updater list thing and thought “Hey wait, I know who Shanoa is, don’t I?” Yup, though not in person ^^

    February 22, 2012
  2. Nicole #

    Thanks for letting me share Shanoa’s story. Oh, and hi to Jen and Elka (go DT!).

    February 23, 2012

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