Who is in charge of keeping you in balance when your life fills up with too many to-do list items?

Who tells you it is time to play?

The truth of the matter is – we are working too hard and putting in too many hours on the next books. But we have barometers in our home who tell us that. They are named Leaf, Cuddles, and Sunshine.

A Dog Named Leaf

A Dog Named Leaf

Cuddles

Cuddles

Sunshine

Sunshine

Leaf, our dog, brings his ball and drops it at our feed and tells us to throw it for him. Cuddles, the little cat, vocalizes with a scolding tone of voice. Sunshine, the bird, screeches more than usual but also sings his song if one of us spends quality time with him.  He is giving us positive reinforcement to play with him too.

Everybody joins in the chorus to let us know that it is time to rest, time to take a break, time to play.

Who is in charge of keeping you in balance when your life fills up with too many to-do list items?

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OVERCOMING A FEAR OF DOGS

I recently did a radio interview and got to do what I love, which is to talk about my book, New York Times bestseller A DOG NAMED LEAF. I always enjoy sharing with anyone who will listen to me talk about Leaf and how we came out of challenging times as a spiritual team. Both of us became better and more loving from our experiences together.

A Dog Named Leaf

A Dog Named Leaf

I talked about the joy and comfort a person receives by having the unconditional love of a dog and gave examples of how Leaf’s presence made my and his life better.

On the air, the host said that she had grown up in an environment where her mother taught her to fear dogs. To this day, she would be too afraid to have a dog as a pet.  She added that without knowing better, she had instilled that same fear in her son who is now 10 years old. As we chatted during the interview about the book and my experiences, the radio show host began to understand how much she and her son are missing out on, by not having a dog join their family.

I talked about how animal shelters are always looking for volunteers. Volunteering often helps people who cannot have a dog for some reason or may be concerned over the cost of adoption.

The host said that, as we talked, she had realized that it was time for her to move forward and past her deep, lifelong fears. Both she and her son were going to volunteer a couple of hours each week at their local animal shelter. They could become more accustomed to and less fearful by being around all kinds of dogs and experiencing firsthand the different characters and doggy personalities.

She added that one fine day, she might find a dog at the shelter. They would welcome the new arrival into their home with open arms.

What a satisfying interview that was for me, the host, and hopefully, for her listeners.

Have you ever had to overcome your fear of an animal?

A DOG NAMED LEAF

A DOG NAMED LEAF

A New York Times bestseller, A Dog Named Leaf (ISBN-10: 0762781654, ISBN-13: 978-0762781652), a 224-page paperback published by Lyons Press/Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, is available at major online book retailers, in bookstores, and at lyonspress.com. Visit the book’s Facebook page and view photos of Leaf at http://www.adognamedleaf.com or www.facebook.com/adognamedleaf

CUDDLES LOVES HER NEW SCRATCHING POST

Every morning Cuddles wakes up and runs to her scratching post to stretch and scratch. Her claws are often sharp and in need of good vigorous scratching. This morning routine is her “me” time. She enjoys that the scratching post belongs to her alone. Never would her humans Linda and Allen, the bird Sunshine, or “that dog” as she refers to Leaf, scratch her post.

Cuddles

Cuddles

All has been good in Cuddles’s world except that the post was falling apart from her enthusiastic and forceful daily scratching. It was time for a new one. Her two humans went on a journey to the pet supply store and examined a dozen scratching posts.

Cuddles

Cuddles

We had lengthy discussions as we attempted to think how Cuddles would view the different styles of scratching posts. An impossible task. Who can figure out what a cat is thinking?

Cuddles

Cuddles

We finally decided on one that had the long length and the sturdiness we thought Cuddles would enjoy. She embraced her new post with vigor, gratitude, and love.

Cuddles

Cuddles

Visit http://www.angelanimals.net/nlimage127.html to see Cuddles with her new scratching post.

Book by St. Louis Park authors named a New York Times best-seller, By Seth Rowe, January 8, 2015

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Arts & Entertainment, Sun Sailor Newspapers

Book by St. Louis Park authors named a best-seller, By Seth Rowe, January 8, 2015

A St. Louis Park writing couple released a book about the animal actors of Hollywood in 2014 but a 2012 book about their own dog landed them on The New York Times Best Sellers list published in December and January.

“A Dog Named Leaf” by Allen Anderson and Linda Anderson of St. Louis Park came in at No. 20 on the newspaper’s Dec. 21 list for e-book nonfiction. The book focusing on the Andersons’ cocker spaniel appears on the same list as “Unbroken,” “Wild,” “American Sniper” and books by Bill O’Reilly, Dick Van Dyke, Tom Brokaw, Andy Cohen, Amy Poehler, Chuck Norris, Brook Shields and George W. Bush.

A DOG NAMED LEAF

A DOG NAMED LEAF

The book also landed on No. 10 under the animals category on The New York Times list for books sold throughout December. That list includes copies sold in print, as e-books and as audiobooks.

Although the Andersons have written 17 books, they said “A Dog Named Leaf” is the most personal. Subtitled “The Hero from Heaven Who Saved My Life,” the book describes how Leaf, a rescue dog from the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, helped provide support for Allen after he learned he required an operation for a brain aneurysm.

The two wrote “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors” with American Humane Association President and CEO Robin Ganzert, who promoted the book on television shows across the country. While that book did not make The New York Times list, the Andersons said they were surprised to learn that “A Dog Named Leaf” had suddenly appeared as a best-seller.

Animal Stars

ANIMAL STARS: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors

“This is impossible – something that doesn’t happen,” Allen said.

Linda added, “We had to write a letter to say does anybody know how this happened?”

They eventually learned that a company that bought the book’s publisher, Lyons Press, had begun to promote “A Dog Named Leaf” as an electronic book, or e-book.

“Two years ago we worked so hard to tell people about this book, and two years later we said, ‘Wait a minute. This is really, really nice,’” Linda said.

Allen said, “It’s been a fun ride. You go through so much and then you have something like this happen, and it’s like, oh my goodness, we won the lottery.”

Many of the popular books that have been written about dogs are by individuals who are already well-known, Linda said.

“It’s unusual we made the list because we’re not celebrities,” she said.

The publisher’s decision to market the book as a memoir likely attracted people who would not have sought out a book specifically about dogs but who are interested in reading about the lives of other people, Linda suggested.

“It brings people back to personal experiences they had, and why was that animal in my life at that time?” Linda said.

Allen had an emotional reaction when he learned about the unruptured brain aneurysm as he recalled his father’s stroke, he said. Worried about how Linda would take the news, he decided to present her with a fact sheet he compiled about aneurysms. He delivered the sheet as she sat in a rocking chair before exiting the room.

Linda responded incredulously.

“You’re saying you have an unruptured brain aneurysm and you’re going to have surgery, you could die, and you give me a memo?!” Linda recalled as her reaction to the news.

Because of the possibility he could die, Allen noted that he wrote out a “manual” with information Linda would need to know if he were no longer there, such as screen shots of how to access their online accounts.

“Part of the book is the whole relationship thing and how we got through this as a family with Leaf by my side,” Allen said.

Leaf, Allen, and Linda

Leaf, Allen and Linda

Allen and Linda Anderson’s book about their cocker spaniel, Leaf, appeared on The New York Times best-seller list in December. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe)

The book begins with Allen describing a tense situation from his years as a police officer during which a suspect pointed a gun at his head during a chase on foot. The incident took place not long after his former partner had been shot to death, and  Allen called a brief standoff alongside another officer with a history of excessive force “the longest two seconds of my life.” The man lowered his weapon and was taken into custody.

During his eight years as an officer, Allen said he escaped death or injury so many times Linda called him “Miracle Man.” Allen segues into his story of the brain aneurysm by writing, “Years later there would be another kind of weapon aimed at my head with its trigger cocked. My new situation would be as life threatening as any I’d faced while doing police work.”

The story of his diagnosis and connection with Leaf takes place under the title “The Journey of Two Souls Begins.” The book focuses on a connection between Allen and Leaf that he described as “deeper than owner and pet.”

As an emotionally troubled dog who the Andersons believe likely had experienced abuse in the past, Leaf acted out among people he did not know.

“Difficult is a kind word for it,” Linda said of their St. Louis Park groomer’s early experiences with Leaf. “She said he was just terrified.”

The only information the Animal Humane Society had posted on Leaf’s kennel was that he had been abandoned.

“It was so sad,” Linda said.

The Andersons originally hesitated to take him home, but decided to return and take a chance on Leaf.

Although the groomer later disclosed that Leaf had bitten her soon after his adoption, the groomer said he “started getting rid of the fearful devil inside that made him naughty.”

The book describes Leaf and Allen each helping each other work through their own emotions.

On their Angel Animals blog, the Andersons wrote, “Leaf was a severely traumatized dog, and Allen was at that time, a former inner city police officer who had closed down emotionally after having too often seen the worst in human nature. Trust turned out to be a big issue for both of them.”

Leaf

Leaf

Authors Allen and Linda Anderson adopted Leaf, a cocker spaniel, from the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley.  (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe)

By the time Allen learned of his brain aneurysm, “Leaf and he were two comrades struggling to survive what life was throwing at them,” the blog states.

In the end, Allen wrote in the book, “I looked at Leaf and recognized him for what he is: a heroic soul from heaven in a small dog’s body.”

‘Angel Animals’

The Andersons have long promoted the idea of spiritual connections between people and animals. In the ‘90s, they created an “Angel Animals” newsletter that compiled stories people related of their experiences with animals. They obtained stories by posting fliers at stores like Cub Foods and from people in line at a St. Louis Park post office.

“By the time we’d get up to the counter, we had heard everyone’s angel animals stories,” Linda said.

When their list of newsletter subscribers exceeded 1,000, the Andersons successfully pitched their first book proposal to a major publisher then called Penguin Putnam.

They gained a big break when television personality Willard Scott commented on their book on the “Today” show on NBC. The quote that caught Scott’s attention came from the Rev. Billy Graham, whose association had been based in Minneapolis at the time. The Andersons gained permission from Graham’s association to use the quote, which read, “Heaven is the place of final and complete happiness God has prepared for us – and if animals are necessary to make us happy in heaven, then you can be sure God will have them there.”

Books by Allen and Linda Anderson

Books by Allen and Linda Anderson

 St. Louis Park residents Allen and Linda Anderson have authored 17 books, some of which have been translated into other languages like German, Japanese, and Portuguese.  (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe)

That television mention prompted sales of their original book to soar “like the stock market,” Linda said.

The authors had another brush with fame when they launched “A Dog Named Leaf.” Allen said he happened to see Garrison Keillor walking by with groceries, prompting Allen to yell a thanks to the famous author and radio personality for letting the Andersons launch their book at Common Good Books, a St. Paul book store Keillor owns. Keillor attended the launch the next night and made a joke during the following show for “A Prairie Home Companion” about people who write memoirs.

Garrison Keillor and Allen Anderson at A DOG NAMED LEAF Book Launch at Common Good Books

Garrison Keillor and Allen Anderson at A DOG NAMED LEAF Book Launch at Common Good Books

Despite such past moments, Allen said he still felt in shock about the book making The New York Times.

“To have this happen with one book, it feels real good,” Allen said.

He said he is pleased that “A Dog Named Leaf” is the one that became a best-seller.

“It’s our story – Leaf’s story,” he said.

More information about “A Dog Named Leaf” is available at adognamedleaf.com. More information about the Andersons, their other books and their blog is available at angelanimals.net.

ASJA Award for A DOG NAMED LEAF

ASJA Award for A DOG NAMED LEAF

The Andersons won an award from The American Society of Journalists and Authors in 2013 for “A Dog Named Leaf.”  (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe)

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Sun Sailor Newspapers –Contact Seth Rowe at seth.rowe@ecm-inc.com

ALPHA LEAF

A DOG NAMED LEAF

A DOG NAMED LEAF

Excerpted from A DOG NAMED LEAF by Allen Anderson with Linda Anderson, published by Lyons Press, 2012.  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

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.

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.

A DOG NAMED LEAF

A DOG NAMED LEAF

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.

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.

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.

Leaf ‘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 for details about A DOG NAMED LEAF.

OUR NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

A DOG NAMED LEAF

A DOG NAMED LEAF

A DOG NAMED LEAF

The 2012 memoir A DOG NAMED LEAF about our rescued cocker spaniel and Allen facing life-threatening challenges together, will be on the New York Times Best Sellers list next week (December  21).  Wow! We are letting fans of that book know and we’re getting a lot of heartfelt positive responses.

It’s amazing how many of the comments people have made about the book on Amazon and Facebook mention that they couldn’t put it down. One woman wrote us and was “mad” because she’d only intended to read a couple of chapters at bedtime but was up till 2:00 a.m.

This book was very personal and painful to write and have published. We adopted Leaf from the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley in 2006 when he was one year old.  Previously we had volunteered at the animal shelter. We are grateful that Animal Humane Society did not give up on this abandoned dog and moved him from their Coon Rapids location to Golden Valley in hopes that he would have a better chance of finding a home. Broken and scared, he turned out to have a much tougher time than we anticipated while learning to be in a family (or even inside a house).

There are times in life when one or two years are packed with experiences that normally would happen over decades.  It was that way with Leaf and Allen.  Thankfully, they found each other at exactly the right time. Together, they went through the ups and downs of bonding while walking around Twin City lakes and visiting local dog parks. Leaf was a severely traumatized dog, and Allen was at that time, a former inner city police officer who had closed down emotionally after having too often seen the worst in human nature. Trust turned out to be a big issue for both of them.

Shortly after we adopted Leaf, one of the best neurosurgeons in the country, on staff at a local hospital, operated on Allen to heal an unruptured brain aneurysm that could burst at any time. By then, Leaf and he were two comrades struggling to survive what life was throwing at them.

It took a long time to come to the point of being able to add to our bios: New York Times bestselling authors.  Many writers know how much perseverance and patience is required before having a breakthrough. In this era of YouTube and Instagram and instant gratification, it’s tough for aspiring writers to understand that these types of fame flashes are like winning the lottery and with similar odds.

About halfway through our journey of writing animal-themed books, the pundits were declaring that books were dead. No one was reading anymore. Then e-books came along. Soon, people who hadn’t read a book in years were reading.

So our publisher converted our backlist print books into e-books. The e-books began selling very well and driving people to their print book counterparts. If we hadn’t persevered and continued writing new books over the years, the publishers would have let the old books go out of print, and we would have missed this new era of e-book sales. But we were viable authors who were still building readership and consequently were able to survive during the era when books were supposed to be having their last gasps of breath.

One college freshman came up to us at our book event and was carrying an armful of books. She said she had never read an entire book all through high school. But e-books had gotten her reading again, and she realized what she was missing in her life — books!

Join us in celebrating a milestone.  Check out A DOG NAMED LEAF at http://amzn.to/1Gm0V1V

A Dog Named Leaf in a Tree

A Dog Named Leaf in a Tree

An Author’s Dream Book Launch Party

Allen and Linda Anderson

Allen and Linda Anderson

The #AnimalStars book launch was a grand event. We were amazed and very happy to see all the excitement and love for the book and for American Humane Association. The book party was at Fox Studios in Los Angeles in the ballroom.

Leading up to the ballroom was the red carpet, backdrops with ANIMAL STARS book cover images, and massive posters lining the red carpet on the other side of the entrance aisle. Hundreds of well-wishers attended. At one point, when our coauthor Dr. Robin Ganzert asked, “And what’s the name of this book?” everyone sang in unison, “ANIMAL STARS!”

ANIMAL STARS -- Book Launch Party

ANIMAL STARS — Book Launch Party

 

Animal Stars

Animal Stars

The party included food, drink, and lots of laughter. Many of the book’s contributing authors/trainers attended with their animal stars who were featured in the book. People were getting photos and videos of themselves with the famous animal actors. Crystal, the capuchin monkey star of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM and WE BOUGHT A ZOO was a full participant in the celebrations. She graced us by sitting on our shoulders and grooming our hair. What an actress!

Celebrities James Denten (Mike the Plumber on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES) and Animal Planet host and author Victoria Stilwell were enjoying the party as well as a young man from television that the teenagers all knew and adored.

Animal Stars Director's Chair

Animal Stars Director’s Chair

We were thrilled to meet Dr. Marty Becker, official veterinarian for GOOD MORNING AMERICA and the DR. OZ SHOW. He wrote the foreword for our first ANGEL ANIMALS book and for this book. Such a nice man. Our publicist for all these years, Monique Muhlenkamp was also at the party representing our publisher New World Library.

Allen and Linda Anderson with their Friends at the Animal Stars Book Launch Party

Allen and Linda Anderson with their Friends at the Animal Stars Book Launch Party

Margo, Linda, and Arlene

Margo, Linda, and Arlene

It was an author’s dream book launch party. And we are grateful to have had the opportunity of meeting people who sent the book off with a good start. Many came up and told us they have been reading and loving our books for years. What a treat! Who knew?

Linda, Crystal, & Allen

Linda, Crystal, & Allen

Robin Ganzert and Friends

Robin Ganzert and Friends