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Shannon Miller Won 7 Olympic Medals and Wins Gold Again With Her Dog, Dakota

We talk to America’s most decorated gymnast about her athletic career, her Labrador Retriever, and her company, Shannon Miller Lifestyle.

 |  Apr 7th 2014  |   0 Contributions


Shannon Miller is America’s most decorated gymnast -- winning two gold, two silver, and three bronze Olympic medals as well as nine World Championship medals. She’s a popular TV host, radio personality and an author of multiple fitness and health-related books and videos. And she’s also a wife, mother, and a member of eight (count 'em) halls of fame, as well as two inductions into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and an astounding 59 international and 49 national competition medals (half of them gold). Yowza!

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Shannon and Dakota take a selfie.

Her most difficult challenge and accomplishment, however, wasn’t training or competing for these honors, but beating a rare form of ovarian cancer that was diagnosed in 2011. Now cancer free, she set her goals to launching her company Shannon Miller Lifestyle: Health and Fitness for Women, a series of successful fitness and cookbooks and fitness DVDs.

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Shannon competing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Photo by Dave Black.

One of her missions is to help empower women via education and awareness about their health. Shannon continues to be a strong advocate for early detection and for women to make their health a priority, as well as for continuing the fight against childhood obesity with the help of her Shannon Miller Foundation.

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Shannon displays her Olympic medals. Photo by Renee Parenteau.

She’s definitely a champion in more ways than one! Constantly by her side has been not just her family, but also her precious dog Dakota. I sat down with her for a chat.

Dogster: You have so many honors and awards in such a significant career. What are your most treasured achievements?

Shannon Miller: In my gymnastics career, there are so many memorable moments. Of course, winning gold at the 1996 Olympics was a highlight. And of course, as a gymnast striving for perfection in each routine, the times that I scored a perfect 10 were thrilling. In life, however, my greatest achievements are my two sweeties, my son is now four and my daughter is eight months old. 

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Shannon's son, Rocco, with Dakota.

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Dakota the Lab checks out Shannon's daughter, Sterling.

Did you get Dakota before or after your cancer diagnosis?

Dakota has been with us only a couple of weeks less than our baby girl. We didn’t think having a three-year-old (our son Rocco) and a newborn baby was challenging enough, so we thought we would get a puppy! 

Rocco got to help name Dakota, so we came up with a list of names and he got to choose. It came down to Peaches or Dakota.

Did you adopt or rescue Dakota? 

We were not looking for a puppy. Both my husband and I typically adopt from Humane Society or a place similar. We typically get adult dogs that have a more difficult time finding homes. However, we happened to be looking online one night and simply fell in love with this bundle of fur. John drove three hours the next day to pick her up!

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Dakota on her first day home.

How did having her help you emotionally through the tough times?

I have had dogs for as long as I can remember. They are so important for emotional support. Dakota is here for us no matter what emotions we’re feeling and she certainly has unconditional love. Our son adores her and loves to run screaming around the yard. Watching that, or the way he lays on her belly or talks to her about his day, just warms my heart.

When I’m not traveling, I work from home so she is a constant presence by my desk. Although I have to wake her up if I’m on a conference call or they’ll hear her snoring! 

Too funny! Do you let her sleep with you? 

She isn’t allowed the run of the house quite yet. She’s still in that puppy-chewing phase. But hopefully she’ll be sleeping by our bed soon … unless Rocco calls dibs first. She absolutely snores and she likes to “chase bunnies” in her sleep. 

She is amazing with the kids. We have to be a little careful because of her size and tendency to want to chew everything in sight (hello, toys!). But she is so sweet and so patient. She can’t stop licking the baby. During her afternoon feeding, it’s just the girls (me, baby girl, and Dakota) and they just watch each other the whole time like they were old friends. 

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Photo by Lauren Fox

If you could trade places with any breed of dog, what would it be?

I think I’d be a Labrador Retriever. They just always seem sweet and happy, if not a little goofy. 

What's your favorite recreation?

I love playing fetch with Dakota. She hasn’t quite mastered the idea of bringing the ball back to me so I get my exercise chasing it around the yard. Sometimes I think she does it just to watch me run around like a maniac. She also loves tug of war but she’s getting pretty big so I get a good workout with that one, too!

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Photo by Lauren Fox

What’s been the most difficult challenge?

The chewing! I’m not used to having a puppy since I typically adopt older dogs. Of course, having two kids means lots of toys. We do pretty good about keeping them off the floor but we do have to “dog proof” the house if we leave her alone more than five minutes. We try not to give her people food and I try not to buy toys that are similar in look or feel to the kid’s toys so that she can differentiate what is hers and what is theirs. She even gets her own toy basket. 

Dakota will play with ANYTHING. And if she can’t find any toys and is too lazy to go get one she’ll just do circles chasing her tail. She has a best friend in the dog next door. They play together, running around going crazy. 

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Dakota loves to play, even in the mud.

Tell us about your lifestyle company.

My company is Shannon Miller Lifestyle (www.shannonmillerlifestyle.com). Our mission is to help women make their health a priority. We do this through programs, products and partnerships as well as our content driven website. I spend quite a bit of my time traveling across the country to speak on the topics of health and wellness. I also host a weekly health radio show where we focus on a different health related topic each week. 

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Playing tug with Dakota. Photo by Lauren Fox.

You’re a wonderful role model! And your passion in life?

I love being a mom and I love helping women make their health a priority. I’m lucky that I get to do those every day.

To keep up with Shannon, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Shannon Miller Lifestyle

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Read more from Marina and more about celebs and their dogs:

About Marina Anderson: Marina is an established actress, professional freelance writer, best-selling author (David Carradine, The Eye Of My Tornado), jewelry designer (The Flying Goddess) and publicist (The Media Hound PR) for clients such as Robby Benson, Ed Begley Jr., and music icon Alan Parsons and Gary U.S. Bonds, to name a few. She is also a personal manager and career and spiritual consultant. 

Her film/TV credits include Dexter (opposite Jennifer Carpenter); co-lead in the Emmy-nominated web series Sophie Chase, Law & Order LA, and Desperate Housewives; supporting and guest star roles in Dangerous Curves, Sex & Mrs X (opposite Linda Hamilton), Forever Knight, and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (opposite David Carradine); the Genie Award-winning film 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould; and many other productions, national commercials, and voiceovers. Marina’s passion is helping animal rescue organizations. Look for her next book, The Adventures Of Lulu The Collie,which stars her beloved dog, Lulu, daughter to Lassie VIII, and keep up with her work byfollowing her on Facebook. 

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