Skip to content

Posts from the ‘love letters’ Category

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.

Guest Post: A Love Letter to Scuby

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 some of what Theresa wrote:

To my DINOS Valentine: Scuby ‘don’t touch the hair’ McConville

My DINOS dog and I met quite by accident. I’m paraplegic and diabetic and have had two previous service dogs; one contract trained and the second was a program dog. Both had their joys and their difficulties. When the second dog was lost at 9 years to cancer I was lost to the world. Getting around in a wheelchair requires considerable hand and arm strength and coordination. Wheelchair leash-work requires more hands than I can usually find. Quite literally, without the leash I’d forgotten how to move around. I hated it. I was alone and vulnerable. Not my favorite neighborhood in my head.

My friend needed cat litter and seeing how bummed out I was, insisted that I keep her company on her errand. Soon I found myself in a pet store…on Dog Adoption Day for a foster rescue group. I do love dogs so I had a look around.

Amid the kennels, cages, boxes and x-pens sat a hulk of a collie looking thing. He was quiet and still, ever watchful though calm. His left eye was multicolored and eerie to look at. I introduced my scent, then he laid a gentle glance and a paw reached out, just short of touching my sleeve. I had to know more.

Our first on-lead walk together was in-sync from the very first step. He would not pull, but watched my every move over his shoulder as he picked his way through a retail crowd. I applied as many temperament queries as I could while on the fly and was impressed by his willingness to try anything. I did what I advise others not to do; I decided with my heart and took this gentle spirit home with me. It took me all of 45 minutes to decide.

“Scooby-Doo’s” paperwork listed him as seven years old, recently neutered, Australian Shepherd – St. Bernard mix, cruelty seized and returned by TWO previous adopters because of what the Dumb Friends League referred to as “normal herding behaviors”. There was also a notation written in RED that he should be the only dog in residence!



I’ve been training dogs for decades and have always adjusted the training to suit the dog, so I thought, but after a couple of weeks of settling-in it was apparent my skills weren’t up to the challenge this dog was laying down. He didn’t fit anything I knew. I had to change. The next five years became an evolutionary process for me as a trainer and as it turned out, also as a human being.

Four months with Scuby…he was reactive to everything… And I was suddenly on my own since ‘reactive’ dogs are considered unsuitable by most ‘serious’ trainers. Cowards!

I didn’t understand his fears. I couldn’t make him feel safe, until I made the leap to consider his feelings and offer him better choices. He devised a method of communicating his needs using his stuffed toys. Prancing gaily about with “Bruce” the gray shark in his mouth meant ‘potty’. “Baby” a brown monkey was related to food and “Rudy” the reindeer was for self-soothing from loud noises.

The care-taking role of an alert/service dog seems to morph the human/animal bond and ramps it up to whole different level. Scuby taught me how to reach through fear. There is no greater trust than that.

My bar’s been raised by a dog, again…I will not let anyone forget how this damaged and unsuitable specimen activated the Lifeline device to summon rescue that day I bungled a transfer and knocked myself out in the bathroom.

He’s twelve now. Muscle is retreating from all parts of his body and his senses aren’t as keen. It’s been a couple of weeks since he’s wanted to open the doors for us…The pain of losing him is exquisite simply because he is a DINOS. They’re in our face 24/7 and they need us to be better, softer people. Their very lives depend on it.

I’m afraid that on that day when I venture outside without a leash in my hand, not only will I forget how move my wheelchair again, this time I may forget how to breathe…

 Theresa McConville & Scuby 2012

Guest Post: A Love Letter to Ani

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 Shannon wrote:

Ani has done nothing less than change my life. She has slowed me down to a more healthful pace and expanded my capacity to love. One tiny puppy mill breeder momma crawled into my heart and made it bigger.

Ani is a toy Rat Terrier and was the last of 143 dogs rescued from appallingly squalid conditions. She was considered unadoptable because she couldn’t tolerate the slightest human touch. When I was able to take in another foster dog, I went to get her for New Rattitude Rat Terrier Rescue. She was frozen in fear and kept her eye on me from the crate through every hour of the drive home. I was practically grinning during that drive, I was so happy for the opportunity to rehab her. “Blissfully ignorant,” I believe that’s called.

I had rehabilitated many fearful dogs, but what I didn’t know was a lot. I assumed that Ani would be a challenge to housetrain, but I didn’t know that she was the Jackson Pollock of poop. She would poop on the floor of her exercise pen and happily romp through it on the way around her crate. Stopping inside her crate to scratch around in her blanket, she’d tromp back through the poop to excitedly paw at the wire panels. She’d wag her curled tail, dance around, and fling more poop. I cleaned up a lot of signed originals.

I didn’t know that my softly voiced “it’s okay” would be terrifying to Ani. She would run and tremble, frightened out of her mind at hearing the sounds humans had used when she was held down for medical treatments. I didn’t know that would break my heart into a thousand pieces.

I didn’t know that her initial intense interest in me was mostly hypervigilance. Accustomed to speeding through life with far too many entries on my to-do list, I had to learn to be mindful of every move and every sound I made. Suddenly everything I did mattered to this little dog. It mattered how I removed my socks when changing clothes. It mattered how and where and at what angle I sat on the sofa. It mattered that the fork was carefully placed into the sink. Above all, it mattered that my hands came nowhere near her body.

I do know now what joy one little being can bring into a life. I know well the barely-contained thrill of the first baby steps toward bonding. The first touch of a tiny wet nose on my hand. The first happy, bouncy barkfest upon my return home. The first calm look into my eyes. The first tug on my sleeve to play. The first time Ani let me pet her, tears of happiness quietly rolled down my face.

Ani wants to connect, so she’s figured out a way to do that without involving human hands. She “kisses.” She kisses a lot. She kisses to reconnect for every greeting, every good feeling, and every time she needs reassurance. She snuggles into me and gives kisses when I am lying down. Now I can say, “It’s okay,” and she looks at me like maybe it is. I am in awe of her resilience and ability to trust.

I currently have seven terriers living with me, some my own and some foster dogs, and I love all of them. I’ve always learned so much from dogs. But Ani brought some extra magic with her that made me just a little bit better as a person. A little more patient. A little more kind. A little softer. When I think of her, I always feel her in my heart.

New Rattitude gave me a gift by agreeing to let Ani live with me for the rest of her life. Ani gave me the most precious gift of herself.

Guest Post: A Love Letter to Jemma

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 Blythe wrote:

Dear Jemma,

We didn’t know that you, our 65lb. pitty mix, were a DINOS when we brought you home from the shelter, all skinny and woozy from the anesthesia from your spay.  Heck, I didn’t know what a DINOS was until just the other day, but once we read about DINOS we knew that was what we have on our hands. 

But… we also have a squiggly-wiggly girl who grumbles contentedly when she has her belly rubbed and “laughs” when she’s tickled under her chin.  We have a tug-o-war champion and enthusiastic hide-and-seek partner.  You’re a girl who loves staring contests with the ‘possums on the fire escape and snores louder than your Daddy.  Yes, you’re a DINOS who loves 6am walks and empty dog runs and slurping my nieces until they fall over laughing.


There are some days when I wish I could bring home a new sister or brother for you from the shelter, and there are some days when I wish we could have a carefree playdate with our friends’ furbabies.  But, at the end of the day when you’re stretched out across both of our laps and you heave a big sigh, we know that you’re the happiest you’ve probably ever been in your tough little life.  And we know we’d do anything for our DINOS and wouldn’t trade you for a million dollars.


Guest Post: A Love Letter to Corky

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

Here’s some of what Emily wrote:

White, black and dirt all over. That’s what you looked like when we first met.  I drew the short straw and had to walk the barrier-aggressive new pit in the holding kennel.  I crouched, avoided eye-contact and remained calm as I leashed you up and brought you outside in the rain.

And then it happened. We were outside alone and standing under a big maple tree; the rain steadily dropping around us. The wet droplets landed on your dusty fur and started to cleanse you.  I no longer saw just another dog with an attitude problem. I saw you and I fell in love.

You passed your behavioral evaluations and we learned you couldn’t become small enough in the presence of men, children frightened you and you would probably shred a cat in an instant. But we were to find you a new home.  Months later most had lost hope. But I had love for you and if I hadn’t loved my cats, I would have brought you home.

Your barrier aggression got worse, and worse; kennel life did not suit you, and you did not present well. You were scaring people and the Board of Directors was notified…and the pending big “E” was a reality. I wouldn’t let it happen. We went to work. We learned agility, you got extra training time, socialization time, anything to get you out of the kennel.

And it worked. One sunny day, Mason brought in his parents and wanted to play with you (you do have a knack for playing with other pups that was irresistible to watch – it was like you had a crush on any dog you got to play with). You had a new friend, and a new family to love you. I cried, the volunteers cried, and I cried some more. I was so happy for you, but I still have an aching spot in my heart where you sit.



You were my first true love, and you were a DINOS.  It was my job to protect you.  We learned to arch, about turn, and let my voice carry over a grassy knoll to ‘warn’ people of your need for space and that they should inquire about you inside…You were my first DINOS (the first of many) and we learned together.  You were a star and I had to help others see that or there were major consequences.  In the end we succeeded.

No dog will ever be like you. No dog will ever capture my heart the way that your smile did.  And certainly kisses will never feel the same coming from another snout. But I comfort myself with the knowledge that you have a new best friend and a new mommy and daddy that love you just as much as I do.

His name is Corky. He is my greatest success story.


Guest Post: A Love Letter to Zisso and Nadia

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

Here’s some of what Bev wrote:

After letting my German Shepherd mix, Miss Lizzy go to the RainbowBridge, I swore I would not have another dog. It was hard on my family as my grandchildren had grown up with her and I did not want to go through letting another go.  Three months later, I was twiddling my thumbs with nothing to do.

My  house was too clean. The cats were in a world of their own, and I certainly could not play frisbee with them! I came to realize that I was lonely. The house had an air of emptiness to it, and my life had a huge void. I knew at that moment, that I needed a new friend to take for walks and play with and train and snuggle with and all the glorious joys that a dog brings us. So I began searching.

First I looked at rescues, but quickly found that I would not qualify due to not having my yard fenced. Miss Lizzy always knew her boundaries and I had never needed a fence. I was surfing Craig’s List one afternoon, and saw an ad with a photo of two 16 month old German Shepherds that needed new homes. I called the lady and made arrangements to go meet them…

One, who I learned was called Vito, was fairly large and the other, Zisso was a bit smaller. Zisso was friendly but stayed back a bit.  After spending some time with the pair of them, I knew in my heart that Zisso had to be mine. He was gentle and sweet – loving and tender. I agreed to take this little man home with me. My friend and I fenced off my back yard and Zisso was settled in nicely. It was February of 2009.

In June 2009, I had been on a forum dedicated to German Shepherds and the members posted links to other dogs in need all the time. I would casually surf the PetFinder site often. Then I saw this girl who was local and also in need of a home.  Again I made arrangements with the people to go meet the dog…at the end of the hour visit, this long coated 16 month old girl was going home with me.

Meeting Zisso went great and the two seemed to form an instant bond. They loved running in the yard together and to this day, have only had a handful of squabbles. I have to say, this is much like having twins. Their birthdates are only 3.5 months apart. Both dogs are great with the cats and Nadia especially, as she lets the Old Fat Cat rub and snuggle every single day.


In the beginning when I had them both as newly adopted dogs, it was a goal for me to be able to walk them together…In my walks with Zisso, I often come across loose dogs that feel the need to run up to us…and Zisso’s first reaction is to growl and lunge. It is much different if he is allowed to meet properly, but loose dogs are extremely unwelcome in our space.

I have been ever so grateful for the DINOS site for educating the public with the fact that while our dogs are not good with others, that we too deserve to enjoy a nice walk. Because of Zisso’s reactions to other dogs we often step off the trails or sidewalks to let others pass. Knowing that we are not the only ones makes it easier to wrap my head around and to relax more and focus on having a good fun time with both of my babies. We have even found a place where we can run safely off leash. Despite everything, I am super vigilant about making sure we are in a safe place to enjoy our activities.

They have definitely filled my tiny little house with joy and love, and laughter…lots of laughter. They are my world!

Bev and the Long Coats and their kitties


Guest Post: A Love Letter to Ximmy

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

Here’s what Lynsie wrote:


My dearest Ximmy,

You are my challenge, my anxiety, and my stress.  You are also my baby, my best friend, and a bed hog.

I am sorry that you have your “issues”, as we call them, but I am never sorry that you are mine.

Think about it baby girl, you stress in the car, but you go to training class every Wednesday night!

You have anxiety over crowded places, but you have gotten your Rally Novice title and are working on your Rally Advanced title.

Some would term you a “bad dog”, and a few have told me you should not go out in public, and on those really bad days, I am sorry to say, I have felt the same.  But then you look at me with those big brown eyes, wag your tail, and lean on me, and my heart feels lighter, and I know that those people don’t see the real you, but I do, and I will never give you up.

You are my light.




Guest Post: An Interview with Treo

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

Here’s what Melissa wrote:

Treo, DINOS is holding a contest where we can write a valentine’s letter to our DINOS dog – how about I interview instead?

Treo looks off into space as if he were taking a long drag from a cigarette, and with a sigh, he says, “yeah, sure.”

Being a DINOS, any advice to those struggling?

“First of all, it’s not a label, more like a journey of self-discovery.  I will have good days, surprising days, and not so good days.  It is what it is, I own it, I’ll be the first to say, ‘I’m a dog in need of space – deal with it!'”

On that self-discovery, Treo, we’ve never allowed being a DINOS to interfere with competing in Agility, Flyball or Rally-O, what’s kept you in there?

“Yeah, you and I have spent a lot of time investing in these sports.  You aren’t exactly easy to train, I couldn’t see giving up on you after all this time.  Anyway, together we are awesome.  Can’t imagine giving it all up just because other’s make me nervous.”

What a coincidence, I feel the same way.  Except, I thought you were pretty easy to train, a-hem.  Ok, next question.  Your words, “other’s make me nervous.”  Could you expand on that?

“Sure.  I have a big bubble.  I do like other dogs, it’s a big stereotype to think that I don’t.  I mean, I live with 3 other dogs, 3 cats and an occasional foster dog.  I can co-hab with other dogs.  I caught a baby bunny and gently put it in your hand.  I like other living creatures.  BUT, sometimes I get a bad vibe, and sometimes I’m not in the mood to meet someone new.  Anyway, they give me a look when we’re passing by, or they get in my space and it makes me edgy.  I use my warning signs, and if they back off, we’re good.  If they don’t, what am I supposed to do?  I don’t have time for that crap.  Long story short, you keep me safe, and I can tell you do your best.  That’s why I tend now to look to you for info when other dogs are around.  Thanks for that.  I feel safer.”

You’re welcome.  I don’t like you to feel threatened. I like others to see you as I see you.  99% of the time you are happy-go-lucky, playing games, running, having a great time together.

What about your Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde routine with people?  What’s that all about?

“Look, I get mis-cues all the time.  Strangers look at me in the eyes, or get their face too close to my face, or are too loud and it freaks me out.  Big time.  Do these people even know how to greet a dog?  What the heck happened to the put you handout and let me smell you before you go right in for the pet or snuggle?  I mean, who does that?!  Do you meet people and get up in their grill?”

Well, no.  That’d be rude.

“Exactly!  Rude.  So, people seemed to have forgotten how to greet a dog.  And because of that, I like the new game we play where I ‘pretend’ to greet them, but you have cookies, and they like hold their hand out and I like pretend sniff it and you give me a cookie.  Then you flood me with cookies and they are petting me and I don’t even know it because you are shoving cookies in my face.  I like that.  I just stare at you and forget that they are even there.  Suckers.”


Ok, good.  Glad you like that.  What advice do you have for other guardians who have DINOS like you?

“My first thought is how lucky they are.  I mean, I am a one woman Man.  That’s it.  Primo!  Only one for me. They have to come to the realization that I don’t have to be THAT kind of dog who loves everyone.  I’m extra-specially made just for you!  Also, think of how much we learn together.  If I was a cookie cutter dog, who loves everyone…how boring?! How cliché!  Every victory we have, every step ahead, it will be because we’ve invested in each other.  We’ve tried, and we’ve overcome.  You and I.  Now and forever.”

Treo then hopped off the couch, grabbed is ball from the floor and pushed it into my lap. Tennis balls heal all.  Never forget that.

Want more Treo? Check out Melissa’s blog Red Dogs Rule!

Guest Post: A Love Letter to Boo Radley

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

Here’s what Lauren wrote:

Dear Boo Radley,

Because of you and what you need to succeed, I’ve learned patience, humor, consistency, and most importantly, how to advocate for me and for you.

I know your reactivity is because you’re scared. I know we’ve had some scary run-ins in the past with off-leash dogs, and I know that people think it’s always your fault because of your big blocky head and bulgy muscles and cute little bowed legs. I’d be scared too if every time I went outside I felt that I was at a disadvantage because of how I looked. But that’s why you have me – I’m your voice, your advocate, your buddy, and your guardian.

All I ask is that you trust me when I ask you to do things like “look,” “leave it,” or “turn.” I will protect you. I’ve seen you progress so much in the last three years, and I’m so proud of the relationship we’ve built. I know that one day we’ll go for a hike and you’ll just sail past all the other dogs with your tail waggin’ and a big goofy smile on your two-tone face. You’ll make it look easy. 

So, my little DINOS, you’re a gem. A rocky, dirty little diamond of a puppy dropped off on the streets of Oakland only to come to our house, where we shined you up, snuggled you, taught you games and puzzles, and recognized you for the funny, silly, smart, energetic, and bright spirit you are. You bring so much happiness and humor into my life, and I love you very much.  You’re the best, little man.



Guest Post: A Love Letter to Frankie and Pere

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

Here’s what Kat wrote:


My Dearest Frankie & Pere,

 I suffer from Fibromyalgia and PTSD, making me a PINOS (Person in Need of Space).  Thank you for making last year’s 6 week camping tour of Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida and North Carolina a wonderful success.  I would not have been able to go without you both.  You are wonderful diplomats for DINOS and PINOS.  You help me to know who are safe people to meet and chat with in the campgrounds.  I was able to go out hiking and beach walking with you both.  Something I never could have done on my own. 



Pere, thank you for taking me to the top of Fort Pickens to see the Gulf of Mexico and the butterflies migrating.  Your youthful energy and exploratory nature are appreciated.  Frankie, thank you for helping me find the best photography spots.  You have the patience of a Saint.  We saw so many beautiful places, plants and animals on this trip.  I wanted you to know camping season is almost here and I am looking forward to the new places you will take me.  Start counting boys – T minus 30 days til Camping season begins.

All My Love,