A shy dog’s journey.

Originally named Katie, Shadow joined the Johnson clan in late May 2008 after spending her first five months only in the whelping box room. She was the only puppy left at the breeder’s home and was terrified of people, especially men. Shadow earned her name because she quickly became Jen’s shadow, traveling wherever she went. Jen worked with Shadow on puppy manners and socialization. Shadow continued to show signs of stress when leaving her yard and especially around strangers. Her anxiety would cause her to tremble in fear and often she would urinate when encountering new people and new spaces.

Janie Simmons encouraged Jen to enroll Shadow in K9 Nose Work class in September 2010. Exceptionally reluctant to try the class because of Shadow’s anxiety, Jen enrolled Shadow. At the first class, Shadow’s crate trembled, her tail tucked firmly under her belly and she did pee all over the floor. However, Shadow loved hot dogs, and the alluring scent of hot dogs in boxes led her to search. Her love of food encouraged her to keep searching. Slowly her tail started wagging whenever she saw boxes lying on the floor. People became less scary and she stopped her nervous urinating.

On the fourth or fifth class of her Intro to Nose Work Session, Shadow entered the training location and noticed several servicemen working on the heating system. Her tail tucked and she trembled, but she also saw her favorite, magical boxes. Shadow was able to find all of her hot dogs and even came within several feet of the men while playing her nose game. Her confidence blossomed and she was able to visit the vet with more comfort. She became more confident and could take walks in new places.

Shadow and Jen attended their first trial in June 2011 in New York. Shadow had never been out of the state. She was nervous but her tail wagged intensely when she encountered the warm up box. Shadow successfully earned her NW1 title in her first trial. Her greatest reward wasn’t the salmon treats, but jumping up to lick Jen’s face. The judges independently gave Team Shadow a Pronounced designation with their title recognizing them for exceptional teamwork.

Shadow and Jen continued trialing and attended Nose Work Camp working on their skills. Shadow ultimately was able to earn her Canine Good Citizen. She even participated in two studies with the Department of Navy to help aid their research in an effort to assist military working dogs.

In November 2019, Shadow earned her Elite Championship in Harrisburg, PA. In her final trial, Shadow confidently searched and wagged her tail all day. She ended her trial career with a perfect score of 100 points in this final trial. Shadow happily retired from competition, but continued to work for fun. Shadow passed away in July 2021 to lung cancer. In her almost 13 years of Nose Work, we were able to chronicle the dramatic change from a shy, scared dog to one who exuded confidence in all facets of her life. She loved to work and use her nose, and most of all loved working with her mom to find “all the things”.

In honor of Shadow’s outstanding nose work career, Shadow’s shoutouts will feature dogs whose lives were changed as a result of this sport.