A Dog Named Leaf

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Excerpt from the New York Times bestselling book,  A DOG NAMED LEAF: The Hero from Heaven Who Saved My Life, Chapter 16 “Be Nice Leaf” by Allen Anderson with Linda Anderson, published by Lyons Press, Guilford, Connecticut. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

From Chapter 16, “Be Nice Leaf…”

Just as I thought we were finishing up our time at the dog park that day, Leaf took another opportunity to let me witness his true character.

Normally, he runs to the gate when it’s time to leave. He carries his ball in his mouth and looks like he’s ready to go home and enjoy his nap. That day, though, he stood about twenty feet from the gate near the only other dog left at the park. A woman sat on a bench, watching the dog. Up to that point, Leaf had ignored the dog and woman.

He looked at me and at the lone dog and then back at me again. I held the gate open. Why didn’t he run over to it? I felt a nudge, my inner voice, telling me to ignore the heat and my longing for an air-conditioned car.

Leaf and I walked over to a woman, who gently talked to the dog she had named Murphy. “I rescued him only twenty-four hours ago,” she explained. She went on to say which shelter Murphy had come from.

“That’s the same place we found Leaf,” I said. Both dogs had been abandoned there and left to fend for themselves.

Murphy looked traumatized, scared, and alone even with the woman’s constant reassurance. “I’m your forever mommy,” she told him repeatedly.

“How is Murphy doing?” I asked.

“Since the time I adopted him, he’s been so upset that he hasn’t gone to the bathroom.” The note of worry in her voice made me empathize with her immediately. I recalled all of the conversations and concerns Linda and I had about Leaf’s initial elimination issues.

As we talked, I threw Leaf’s orange ball for him a couple of times. Murphy watched Leaf running after it His expression conveyed that he wanted to join in the fun. I bent down, focused my eyes on his face, and said, “Murphy, you look very handsome.”

Murphy touched his nose to my hand. I slowly rolled Leaf’s orange ball down the hill again. This time, Murphy ran after it. He stopped after about five or six feet and hurried back to his mommy. The lady was delighted and praised him.

Leaf observed the scene and wagged his tail with increasing momentum. He came up to Murphy, and the two dogs stood nose-to-nose for a few seconds. Their tails wagged in unison. Leaf didn’t make any gestures to play. Perhaps he sensed that any sudden movements might scare the timid dog even more. But I was pleased to see that they had made a dog-to-dog connection.

I talked more about Leaf’s past with Murphy’s new mommy. She commented on my dog’s healthy and strong personality. “He’s strutting like he’s fearless,” she said. I knew it had to be encouraging for her to see that an abandoned shelter dog could eventually regain self-confidence.

“Murphy has a bright future,” she said. “He will be spoiled, loved, and safe in his new home.” I told her about the great doggy daycare in the neighborhood that had helped Leaf become more socialized. The tension began to fade from her face.

Now a more relaxed Murphy walked a few feet away to a grassy area. Leaf had used it earlier for his potty break. Murphy sniffed, circled the area, sniffed again, and at last, was at ease enough to eliminate.

My dog and I walked to the gate once more. Leaf carried his orange ball in his mouth.  He constantly surprised me with his intuitive abilities. Leaf had listened to his inner voice about Murphy and had responded with all the love in his heart.

I did not know it at the time, but what I had witnessed — Leaf’s ability to empathize and be there when someone needed him — would become my lifeline in the days and weeks to come.

 

A DOG NAMED LEAF:

A DOG NAMED LEAF is a New York Times bestseller. The American Society of Journalist and Authors (ASJA) selected A DOG NAMED LEAF by Minnesota authors Allen Anderson with Linda Anderson (Globe Pequot/Lyons Press) as one of the winners of the prestigious ASJA Awards in the Lifestyle/Memoir category.

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Being Present for Your Pets

sunshine-and-leafMore often than not, we receive stories from people who write about their pets after the beloved companion has died. Although these stories are wonderful tributes, we wonder if the person might have written while their pet was still alive.  Note: Leaf (dog), Sunshine (bird), and Speedy (cat) are featured in the images in the blog.

The process of writing causes the writer to become aware and observant. It brings the past and future together in the present. Although it has been cathartic for us, too, to write about pets who are no longer with us, there is something immensely satisfying when we take the time to be present to our pets right now.

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In the present moment we can express our gratitude for the joy they are bringing to our lives. When Allen wrote his New York Times bestselling memoir A Dog Named Leaf, it was emotionally fulfilling to be able to take a walk with Leaf, photograph him playing at his favorite dog park, and tuning in to who he is to us today.

There is always a tinge of sadness in writing about animals, even while they are living. We know their life spans are shorter than ours. We know this immensely good thing will someday end. But writing and sharing
stories about them, while we can still pet and play together, replaces fears of loss with admiration and gratitude for the blessings.

sunshine-1Let’s see what new and inspiring stories bubble to the surface as a result of living in the present and rejoicing in the blessings of now.

 

“Anatole France said, ‘Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.’ We agree with that statement. And we heartily invite you to join us in exploring the world of Angel Animals.”

Alpha Leaf

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Excerpted from New York Times bestselling book, A Dog Named Leaf by Allen Anderson with Linda Anderson, published by Lyons Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Summary of the Story:

Allen and Linda Anderson adopted a traumatized one-year-old cocker spaniel who had been abandoned. Soon, the troubled dog they named “Leaf” turned their home into a war zone. Although Leaf and Allen were forging a friendship with visits to dog parks and bonding time, Leaf’s emotional issues overwhelmed the couple.

Shortly after Leaf’s arrival, Allen, who had spent eight years as a big city police officer and survived so many close calls that Linda called him “Miracle Man,” received a diagnosis from his doctor that made him think his luck had finally run out. Allen had an unruptured brain aneurysm that could be fatal, and the surgery to repair it might leave him debilitated.

A few weeks after Allen’s brain surgery while he was still trying to recover, the following section of the story occurred.

***

Alpha Leaf

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During my healing process Leaf became my channel for viewing and living in the strange post-surgery world where my body could no longer be trusted to do what was necessary. After I was cleared to drive again, I took Leaf to the dog park so both of us could relax. With my frontal lobe still not in total functioning mode, other drivers agitated me. I now understood how a person could be overtaken by road rage.

To my embarrassment, I found myself yelling at drivers who lingered at stoplights. It irritated me that they crossed lanes too close in front of my car, chattered on their cell phones, or indulged in other poor driving habits. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have been fazed much and just made sure I got out of their way.

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In our car CD player, we keep a recording of around five thousand people chanting the love-filled mantra “HU.” For me, it is an incredibly soothing sound. The voices of all these chanters fluctuate and harmonize into a magnificent, unrehearsed symphony of high vibrational sound. When I’m driving I often push the button on the car stereo system and listen to the uplifting song waft through the speakers. With Leaf in the car, I doubly enjoy the chant, sensing that it also soothes and comforts him.

On this day Leaf watched me from the front seat as my anger erupted at other drivers. I was like someone with Tourette’s syndrome, unable to censor my negative mind talk. After watching me scream

at a bus that stopped frequently in front of my car, Leaf reached his paw over to the CD player. Out of six buttons on the stereo, he firmly pressed the one that allowed the HU CD to play.

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The timing, position of his paw, his selection of buttons, and the CD that happened to be in the stereo could have all been coincidental. I didn’t care. I needed it. Consciously or not, I knew Leaf was being God’s messenger for me. His act of compassion had its desired effect. I calmed down and let the chant heal my troubled, aching heart and mind. Gratitude welled up in me. My dog had figured out how to supply exactly what I needed to dissolve a passion of the mind I couldn’t control.

I looked over at him. As if nothing had happened, as if he did this sort of thing every day, his attention returned to the traffic. His curious eyes darted back and forth as he watched cars whiz by. Who was this dog? If I couldn’t register an oncoming vehicle, would he lean over and steer the car out of the way for me too?

Later that day I sat on the living room couch with Leaf in his usual spot. His body draped across my torso, and his head rested on my crossed leg. Although I’d grown over the months to appreciate him at deeper levels, at this moment I experienced an epiphany about our relationship.

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I looked at my little adopted dog and realized that we were both emotionally damaged goods. My lack of trust in people, fear of being dependent like my stroke-ridden father, discomfort when people expressed their emotions, and an overwhelming need for privacy all sprung from a childhood in which I never had enough strength to feel safe. Eight years of police work had confronted me with some of the worst humanity had to offer. With its random violence, it had reinforced my low opinion of anyone’s, including my own, trustworthiness.

a-dog-named-leaf-5Leaf ‘s fear, mistrust, and mercurial emotions arose from losing everything he’d ever known and being left without any safety net but his own street smarts. Although he’d been the abandoned shelter dog we rescued, without a doubt he had more than returned the favor. I knew now that life had turned our relationship to its flip side. Leaf was rescuing and trying to heal me. This little black cocker spaniel, abandoned and thrown out like someone’s trash, named Harley at the shelter after a motorcycle he detested, had become nothing less than a spiritual giant in my life.

Visit <http://www.adognamedleaf.com&gt; for details about A DOG NAMED LEAF.

Has an animal tried to communicate his or her wishes to you?

LEAF’S SPOT

Leaf

Leaf

In the early morning Allen was sitting on the couch in a different place than normal, having his morning cup of coffee. Leaf walked up, sat in front of him, and stared. Allen asked our little cocker spaniel what he wanted. Leaf continued to stare at him.

Allen had already given breakfast to Leaf but had forgotten to include a small apple slice that he usually gets for dessert. Still under Leaf’s watchful eye, Allen went to the kitchen and gave Leaf his customary apple slice.

Allen returned to his morning waking-up ritual on the living room couch. Leaf sat down in front of Allen and resumed staring at him. Allen thought, “Maybe he needs to go outside for a bathroom break.” So he left his coffee cup, got up, and let Leaf outside. Nothing happened, though, and they immediately came back into the house.

Once again, Allen sat on the couch only to have Leaf gaze into his eyes as if he was trying to tell him something. Finally, Allen stood up and attempted to figure out what Leaf wanted. The moment he stood, Leaf jumped onto the couch in the spot where Allen had sat. He curled up and made himself comfortable.

At last, it occurred to Allen that he had been sitting on the spot where Leaf usually sprawled out on the couch. Every morning, Allen sat on the smaller couch while Leaf had his reserved spot, viewing the world outside the living room window.

Humans can be so dense. 🙂

Has an animal tried to communicate his or her wishes to you?

SUNSHINE, THE COMPOSER

Sunshine whistles and sings to the world as his day begins each morning. Linda works to keep up with his whistle, but often Sunshine goes places with his whistles she is unable to imitate.

Sunshine

Sunshine

Now, with gusto he has begun performing each evening too. He starts out whistling three to five notes with surprising range, then works to achieve a theme, and uses it as a building block for an even more complex melody. At this point Linda is no longer able to keep up with him and stops whistling back. But she listens with admiration and fascination as he performs his improvisations.

Sunshine

Sunshine

Sunshine creates his own compositions based on nearly twenty years of mastering his repertoire. In a previous blog we wrote about him listening to LES MISERABLES one evening when we watched a DVD of the musical. He quickly learned the melody. The next morning, to our delight, he shared melodies from the musical.

Sunshine

Sunshine

Visit <http://www.angelanimals.net/nlimage126.html >to see images of Sunshine.

Heartland Forum’s Moveable Feast Luncheon

Heartland  Forum's Moveable Feast Luncheon

Linda Attending the Heartland
Forum’s Moveable Feast Luncheon

Linda Anderson visited with booksellers and librarians at the Heartland  Forum’s Moveable Feast Luncheon on October 1st. At this sold-out affair, all attendees received a complimentary tote bag with a signed copy of ANIMAL STARS by Robin Ganzert, PhD and Allen and Linda Anderson. The book was featured in the event.

Heartland  Forum's Moveable Feast Luncheon

Animal Stars Featured at the Heartland
Forum’s Moveable Feast Luncheon

#AnimalStars has recently been featured on Fox & Friends and an Associated Press wire service article that was picked up by about 2,000 media outlets.

Animal Stars

Animal Stars

Visit http://www.animalstarsbook.com for more details.

A DOG NAMED LEAF IN A TREE

A Dog Named Leaf in a Tree

A Dog Named Leaf in a Tree

LEAF IN A TREE

“Oh, my God! There’s a dog in the tree!” one of three teenage girls yelled with disbelief, as the trio walked past us. When they saw the dog, the other two teens called almost in unison, “Oh, my God!” as they all gawked upward.

Our cocker spaniel Leaf and we were at our regular Saturday morning spot, sitting on the soft white sand, viewing the great Mississippi river as it slowly flowed past. This was our quiet time to reflect on our week and what lay ahead.

Our Saturday spot is in the middle of 12 acres of a heavily wooded forest with many walking trails–all existing for dogs. It has an official name, but we call it DOG PARK HEAVEN, the BEST dog park ever.

Near where we always sit on the beach, a large fallen oak tree with ample branches thrusts toward the river. The incline is low enough that Leaf feels comfortable climbing upward, high onto its limb. Upon reaching his destination, he lies down on the thick branch. Then he places his most precious procession, an orange bouncy ball, between his two front paws. With the ball in its proper place, he relaxes and observes all the activities beneath him. This is HIS spot where no dog or human can reach him.

As the people and their canines strolled down the beach one Saturday, some, like the teenagers, noticed Leaf. Most of the time people made their statement about the dog in the tree in a monotone voice as if trying to be cool about such a strange sight. It was as if they were saying, “The tree has leaves.”

Some asked, “Is that your dog?” Linda replied, “Yes, he likes heights. He must have been a cat in a previous life.”

A Dog Named Leaf in a Tree

A Dog Named Leaf in a Tree

With those additional details each person continued to stare at Leaf as he or she slowly approached the tree. With a slight moment of hesitation, they continued walking under the branch while Leaf looked down at them, probably thinking, “They won’t get my ball.”

A few times, passing dogs would also look skyward and see Leaf. Some glared at him when they realized he was not a squirrel. The big dogs looked horrified that a smaller dog would dare be higher than they. “It’s just not natural,” they seemed to be thinking. Other dogs noticed that Leaf had something between his paws. Could it be a ball?

With perfect timing, suddenly and with purpose, Leaf repeatedly showed the dogs that he, in fact, had his own ball. “See! Look at me! Mine!” While he actively chomped on his ball, no canine considered taking the challenge of climbing high to swipe it.

Maybe people were double-checking to make sure what they saw was real and could now be part of their expanded worldview of what dogs do. Maybe the dogs looked back at Leaf to ponder a day when they might get the ball Leaf guarded. After all, it was as if he was mocking them by proudly displaying his prize.

As it turns out, Leaf had a plan of action outside of teasing the dogs below him with a ball they could never capture. He wanted to show off how macho he was or maybe display his intelligence. Using advanced strategic planning, he carefully evaluated potential foes. With amazing timing he threw his ball downward to the beach as his chosen mark approached.

Leaf chose dogs who were totally unaware of his presence above them. With delight and ecstasy, the dogs couldn’t believe their good luck. A ball had dropped from the sky, a gift from the heavens, a toy to enjoy. This was truly DOG PARK HEAVEN!

At the chosen one’s moment of greatest gratitude and vulnerability, Leaf swooped down from his high perch, also appearing to have fallen from the sky. Eye-to-eye with the chosen canine, he quickly chomped on the orange ball and ran with it back up the tree. There, he safely watched the dog’s disappointment and bewilderment that the unexpected gift had been taken away only seconds after being offered.

As we relaxed at our spot on the beach, watching The Leaf Show, dogs slowly walked over to us to say hello. We gentle caressed their heads or ears and told each of our visitors how beautiful he or she was.

This game Leaf played with unsuspecting dogs continued for weeks until one Saturday when we all experienced a profound change. As usual, Leaf displayed his total joy in being back at Dog Park Heaven. We slowly walked down the long winding trail to the Mississippi river and found our regular spot. While we sat in the soft cool sand, Leaf climbed his tree, holding his orange ball in his mouth and rooting himself into his high spot. All was right with the world.

Soon after we relaxed, one dog, then two, then four rushed over to scale Leaf’s exclusive tree branch. Word had gotten out. Was this a dog version of text messaging or inner social media, ending up with a flash mob? Leaf’s personal domain now had uninvited visitors. Big dogs, small dogs, wet and dirty dogs of all sizes formed packs and were invading HIS tree. Tensely he gripped the ball in his mouth, guarding it against those who dared occupy his branch of safety and personal refuge.

A Dog Named Leaf in a Tree

A Dog Named Leaf in a Tree

Consciousness had expanded. The traditional dog park with noses sniffing close to ground had vanished. Traditional canine experience was no longer limited. Humans were delighted and amazed that their dogs could now go high. With nervous laughter they said things such as, “Look at her! I didn’t know she could do that!” Placing limitations on their companions was no longer as easy as previously.

Leaf too had to become accustomed to a new dog park reality. Observing the world from above can be fun but his high spot was no longer unreachable. As a result, he began coming down to earth more often to mix it up, play with other dogs, and have us throw his ball to chase and retrieve.

What did the three of us learn?

Sometimes life breaks through seemingly unbreakable boundaries we have place upon ourselves — fixed notions of what individuals are capable of doing and being. Yet neither dog-made nor man-created limitations are absolute.

What have the animals in your life taught you about possibilities?

A DOG NAMED LEAF

A DOG NAMED LEAF

Visit <http://www.angelanimals.net/nlimage118.html&gt; to view Leaf in a tree.