When the Patriots traded for Danny Shelton, they added an entire defensive line. The ‘Furry Sheltons’—Moni, Mojo, Juicy, and Juju—are relocating from Cleveland to New England along with the nose tackle.
His canine companions are emotional support animals. The 6-foot-2, 330-pound Washington native treats the dogs like family, even suiting them up for his wedding, and they in turn bring him peace of mind.
“For me, it’s just that warm feeling I get coming home and seeing their smiling faces,” Shelton said. “Whenever I’m in a vulnerable position or I’m feeling stressed out – Moni especially – she’s the one that will come over and she’ll notice it and she’ll cuddle up or she’ll do something funny to get me distracted.”
Shelton adopted Moni after he lost one older brother and nearly lost another in a 2011 shooting. He left for the University of Washington a few months after the incident, but every time he returned home he noticed his family’s new Rottweiler puppy bringing a bit of light and laughter back into their lives.
“I wanted that relationship,” Shelton said. “I wanted to fill that gap that felt empty from my brother passing.”
So Shelton adopted Moni, a rescue pit bull, with his then-girlfriend, now-wife Mara. Moni brought a schedule and steady rhythm to his life, forcing him into a routine that didn’t have room for the party scene at Washington. The puppy brought its own set of headaches, like the time she bit through a pipe under the toilet and flooded his apartment, but Shelton ultimately credited his four-legged friend bringing him stability, happiness, and improved on-field production.
“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 in 2016. “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.”
During his senior season for the Huskies, Shelton was the only player in the nation to earn first-team All-America honors and first-team Academic All-America honors. The Browns selected him with the No. 12 pick in the 2015 draft, and the rest of his family soon filled out with the speed of a Shelton bull rush.
“One dog turned into two dogs, and then two dogs turned into three and now four,” Shelton said. “We’re planning on staying at four.”
Danny and Mara are now joined by Juju, a French bulldog, and two Huskies, Mojo and Juicy. In an interview with The Honest Kitchen during his time with the Browns, Shelton said that he goes to work every day with the mindset that he needs to provide for his wife and ‘kids.’
“The quote I like to live by is, ‘My family gotta eat!'”,” Shelton said.
The 24-year-old has yet to make his first Pro Bowl or win a Lombardi Trophy, but he has the 2018 Pet Parent of the Year award to his name.