How Moni the Pit Bull and Juicy the Husky Changed NFL Player Danny Shelton’s Life

092414 - SEATTLE, WA - Danny Shelton credits his dogs Juicy, left, and and Moni for keeping him sane during the grueling college football season. Presumable too, girlfriend Maria Mariano, left, adds greatly to his feeling of stability.

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Danny Shelton entered 2016 in his second season as a defensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns, but his NFL career was in danger of never happening, as he struggled with anger issues at the University of Washington after his older brother was shot to death in 2011. Danny’s life changed in 2013 with some helping paws. A Pit Bull named Moni and a Husky named Juicy brought much-needed stability, responsibility, and happiness into his life.

“Toward the end of my freshman year, I started getting into the party scene, and it was becoming a distraction for me,” Danny said. “It wasn’t until after my sophomore season I decided to try and settle down. I got Moni. She was the runt of the litter. She would travel with me. I would tell my teachers that I had a puppy with me and that she had a schedule where she sleeps in the morning. She did really good with that.

Juicy, left, and Moni. (Photo courtesy Danny Shelton)
Moni, right, with her future sibling, Juicy. (Photo courtesy Danny Shelton)

“She was making sure I stayed true to my goal of settling down. I once got an email that they had to break into our apartment. Moni had bitten through a pipe under the toilet, and the apartment flooded. Our head coach found out about it, and I took full responsibility for it. It wasn’t my roommates’ fault. It was my fault. [Coach] was more lenient with me because he could see the difference with me, as far as my maturity. I was becoming more of a leader of the team, and I guess he thought me having the dog made me that much more mature.”

After having Moni for a year, Danny brought Juicy into his budding family.

“They became part of my life, part of my family, and I really saw a big change in my production on the football field,” he said. “I was more excited, more energized. I was happier. I owe it all to my dogs and my girlfriend [Maria], and my teammates for helping me out with taking care of the dogs. I took them everywhere on campus. Everybody knew Moni and Juicy.

“I saw more of a ‘dad’ side of me come out. I stopped partying and drinking. It was just me, my girlfriend, and my dogs. And now we have a third dog [Mojo, also a Husky]. Danny eventually had Moni registered as an Emotional Support Animal. Now, Danny is giving back, planning a post-football career as a veterinarian and recently getting involved with Wags 4 Warriors, which trains service dogs to assist military veterans in Ohio.

Danny Shelton and girlfriend Maria Mariano with Juicy, left, and Moni.
Danny Shelton and girlfriend Maria Mariano with Juicy, left, and Moni.

“With my past, my family, the tragic incident with my brother, I owe Moni and Juicy for most of the change and the happiness that’s happened to me. They’re the reason I could overcome so many obstacles. They’re the reason I was able to mature and move forward with my life. They gave me the opportunity to make the choice to become a leader and a better man and make the big decision to settle down. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without them.”

Favorite activities

“They love hanging out and watching Netflix together as a family. They also love wrestling in the living room after Mom (Maria, my girlfriend) cleans it up. And we love dressing them up for holidays and just for fun,” Danny said.


“They currently train with Lorenzo’s Dog Training Team [in Garfield Heights, Ohio]. They have been with Lorenzo’s since the start of 2016.”

Favorite treats

“Our kids love every treat we give them, especially hot dogs. We’ve even used pieces of bread as treats, and it’s been effective.”

(Photo courtesy Danny Shelton)
Moni, from left, Mojo, and Juicy. (Photo courtesy Danny Shelton)

Favorite things to do

“We love to sleep. We can sleep a whole day, and they would have a great time. We love visiting our family back in Washington and playing with their cousins and getting spoiled from their grandparents. We also love playing outside no matter what the weather is — rain, snow, or sunshine.

“On game days when Mom isn’t at the game, they love cuddling up, watching the game together, and waiting for me to get home. They don’t have jerseys, but that’s OK for me; I know they are my No. 1 fans.”

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