About the book


Can a dog help to save a person’s spirit?

This one did.


Update: Shayna made her journey to Heaven on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

Thank you to everyone who helped us to reach this point, and for enriching both our lives.  Although I am heartbroken over our separation, I remain hopeful that it is only temporary; that we will see each other again.

The e-book “Saved By Shayna: Life Lessons From A Miracle Dog” tells the heartwarming story of how a man, distraught after the 9/11 attacks, and a remarkable rescue puppy found each other, and forged an amazing spiritual partnership that helped each to begin healing from their severe individual traumas.

Through words, pictures and videos taken since their first day together, the book discusses the deepest aspects of the human-dog relationship, and how this first-time dog “parent” learned to honor the incredible spirit of the “miracle dog” that has been entrusted to him.

The book is now available at Amazon.com.


Just prior to the 9/11 attacks, Jon Sutz, a multi-media designer & writer, was in severe emotional turmoil. Several months earlier, he spent the last few weeks of his ex-girlfriend’s life with her in an ICU, as latent-discovered cancer ravaged her body. He was the last holdout to authorize the discontinuation of her life support. Then, his small business failed. Several years before that, he lost his mother, for whom he’d been caring for three years. Nine weeks earlier, his father passed. Soon after, he lost his beloved grandfather.

After the 9/11 attacks, Jon began experiencing nightmares that revealed more-complete memories of severe traumas he endured as a child. He fell into an emotional tailspin, and desperately sought a means to heal his battered soul, and renew his spirit.

In mid-October, Jon made two decisions that would change the course of his life:

  • To relocate 1,000 miles away, to the only place he says he’d ever felt “at home” – Charlottesville, VA – without having a job, or knowing a soul there.
  • To begin searching for the “right” first dog for him.

Adoption day: Shayna at 12 weeks (4/7/02)

For three months, Jon intensively searched for that “right” first dog. Then, on the very day he was going to discontinue his search, he met a ten-week-old puppy who’d just been rescued from her own traumatic experience: she’d been stranded for three days in a storm drain, without her parents.  Even though she looked nothing like what he (thought he) was looking for, upon meeting her, Jon recalls, “I finally felt the spiritual connection I’d been waiting and praying for.”

Jon claims that by learning to become an effective “dad” to Shayna, a brilliant, inventive Border Collie-Siberian Husky mix, help her heal from her own troubled infancy, and to develop her amazing brainpower, he began to heal from traumas that had haunted him since childhood. He also credits Shayna’s amazing spirit, and the love they share, with helping him to maintain a positive attitude after an accident left him with a neuromuscular disorder, chronic pain and fatigue, and the ability to only work on a part-time, intermittent basis. His life was turned upside down, as all his savings evaporated, and he was forced into bankruptcy.

Smile3Becoming a first-time “dog dad,” especially under such trying circumstances, caused Jon to discover strengths and virtues in himself that he didn’t know he possessed. “I wasn’t cut out to be a ‘dad’ of any kind – or so I thought,” he reflects. “But I discovered that by learning to become an effective ‘dad’ to an extremely-intelligent, emotionally-sensitive creature who happens to speak another language, I began to grow, and mature. And by fulfilling the commitments I made to her – to love her, help her to thrive, and protect and provide for her – I felt my soul beginning to heal, and starting to unshackle itself from the pain, shame and humiliation that defined my childhood.”

Can a dog yearn to be more than “just a dog”? Yes.

Along with its companion website, “Saved By Shayna” also chronicles the amazing array of skills she’s learned and taught herself, including:

  • Frisbee Skiing 2Memorizing the names of 48 toys, being able to retrieve and put them in assigned receptacles, by name, and even using pictorial flash cards.
  • Understanding the concept of numbers – specifically, the ability to retrieve and put away one or two tennis balls at a time, depending on the command.
  • And many others.

Here is an early video of Shayna, when she was six months old, doing her “frisbee skiing”:

And here is their most recent video, taken November 24, 2013, in which Shayna demonstrates her ability to: (1) retrieve toys by name; (2) to stack her ring toys on a pole, and (3) to “count” one and two tennis balls:


The deeper purposes of “Saved By Shayna”

June 20: Hug after Shayna's first swim of 2013; can you tell we are happy?

June 20, 2013: Shayna’s first swim of the year – three weeks after she underwent heart surgery.

Ultimately, Jon hopes that his e-book will help inspire others who’ve thought about adopting a dog to take the plunge – especially those who are struggling to overcome recent or distant traumas, and are apprehensive about such a responsibility.

“There are no guarantees,” says Jon. “But if you approach the adoption process with honesty, care and patience, you may end up with your own ‘miracle dog,’ who changes your life, as Shayna has changed mine. The only way to know is to try.”

The book concludes with twelve of the many “life lessons” Jon has learned through this experience, about issues such as mindful living, assertiveness, time management, health and nutrition, and more – and four insights “written” by Shayna, to help dog parents to more fully honor their best friends. Examples include:

  • How to distinguish between quality veterinarians, dog foods and treats, and those that are advertised as such, but in reality aren’t. Update: Listen to an audio segment of this section, regarding how to find and effectively deal with a quality veterinarian, here.
    (from Life Lesson #8: “Loving your dog means being a savvy shopper of dog products & services”)
  • How to avoid becoming distracted from quality time with one’s dog, and the spiritual benefits of fully experiencing the joy of the moment.
    (Life Lesson #2 “The art of living consciously: Unplug for a while (or longer)”)
  • How to approach each day in a way that will minimize the chances of regrets later in life
    (from Life Lesson 12: “Love may be infinite – but time is not”)
  • How easy it is to project blame onto one’s dog for behavior that is, in reality, a reflection of its parent’s failure to provide appropriate training.
    (Life Lesson #15 – by Shayna: “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself”)

GlowingShayna2The philosopher Albert Schweitzer commented:

“At times our own light goes out, and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

It is in tribute to this crucially-important adage, and in the hopes that other aspiring and current dog parents may benefit from his richly-documented spiritual journey, that Jon has written this memoir. “As deeply private individual,” Jon says, “I’m the last person I would ever expect would write a book like this. But there would be no way to honor Shayna, or to tell the story of how she helped to save my life, and my spirit, without discussing the terrible state I was in prior to meeting her, how I came to be in that state, and how the love we share helped me to emerge from it.”

Saved By Shayna: Life Lessons From A Miracle Dog” is now available at Amazon.com.

Read the Introduction to the book here.

Read a sample “life lesson,” from Shayna, here.

Read various passage excerpts here.

To learn more about the book, email Jon, or call 434-825-8428.

This document can be downloaded as a PDF here.