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.

speedy-1

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.

Do your pets try to talk to you?

A Dog Named Leaf

A Dog Named Leaf

DOG TALK

For many years, our cocker spaniel Leaf has vocalized to Linda in an attempt to talk to her every night before we all go to sleep. He jumps up on the bed, rolls over for a belly rub, and then begins with a series of moans and groans that are his version of words and sentences.

Depending on how tough or interesting a day he’s had, he talks a lot or a little; in calm or excited tones. Linda asks him a question such as, “How was your day?” Leaf answers with emotional responses.

Allen is also on the bed, watching the scene unfold. But Leaf doesn’t confide in him. He only shares his heart with his “mommy”. Allen’s role is to play with Leaf, so Linda calls him “Leaf’s favorite toy.” The dog is more than happy to have Allen scratching his ears during the debriefing session on bed at night.

One night, Linda was amused to hear Leaf talking to her in his usual manner. Except for one thing: Leaf was having the conversation in a dream. From his dog bed next to ours, Leaf babbled on with the same kinds of moans and snorts he uses while awake.

Nice to know that even in his dreams, Leaf continues to communicate in his unique ways.

A Dog Named Leaf

A Dog Named Leaf

What do you think about emotional-support animals?

EMOTIONAL-SUPPORT ANIMALS

The April 22, 2013 issue of TIME Magazine had a thought-provoking article about emotional-support animals (ESA), “Comfort Creatures: Support Animals Help Patients, but That Lizard May Be Against the Law.”

The National Service Animal Registry (NSAR) certifies service and emotional-support animals and has registered 7,000 of them since 1995. The NSAR certifies dogs, cats, pigs, birds, mice, rats, hedge hogs, iguanas, rabbits, and goats. These animals can then wear vests or patches and have ID cards to prove they are necessary to the people they serve.

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Mental health professionals can prescribe an animal’s companionship for patients to help them cope with emotional and psychological symptoms. But health departments can counteract the diagnosis with laws that restrict farm animals. Neighbors can and do report pet owners who they believe are keeping pets or traveling with them illegally.

According to the article there is a confusing gray area about what constitutes a service animal and who needs them. With physical disability, everyone can see why the person needs the animal. With emotional issues, the reasons for having a service animal may not be visible. “Complicating the issue further was the growing diversity of critters aiding people with physical disabilities: boa constrictors that warn their owners of oncoming seizures; capuchin monkeys that help quadriplegics eat and drink; parrots that verbally calm owners who suffer from bipolar disorder.”

Allen and Leaf

Allen and Leaf

The article doesn’t mention a further complication – people who make up their own vests and badges in order to self-certify a pet. Sometimes, this is due to the fact that someone with a disability is on a long waiting list to receive a professionally trained service animal or can’t afford to pay for one. Someone wrote to us that she couldn’t bear to be without her dog and had “faked” a vest that allowed the dog to go everywhere with her.

What do you think about emotional-support animals? Have you had an animal officially or informally who offered you so much emotional support that you had to have him or her with you everywhere?

ANIMAL STARS — Lois Pope Bringing Hollywood’s Famous Animal Stars to Palm Beach, Florida for Afternoon Tea

Tickets for the “Afternoon Tea (January 22nd) with America’s Favorite Animal Stars” at the Chesterfield Hotel’s Leopard Lounge are $150 and may be purchased by emailing Jill Nizan at jilln@americanhumane.org or by calling 1-800-227-4645.

Animal Stars

Animal Stars

Meet Crystal the capuchin and Hudson the Golden Retriever. Limited seating is available for this exclusive event. Dr. Robin Ganzert’s new book “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors” (co-written with Allen and Linda Anderson) is available in bookstores and online everywhere now.

Robin Ganzert, PhD – author of Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors

Robin Ganzert, PhD – author of Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors with her special furry animal actor friend.

Robin Ganzert and Crystal

Robin Ganzert and Crystal

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

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

A Note of Appreciation to Our Angel Animals Blog Readers

As we approach the Christmas holidays and New Year, we want to thank everyone who has been part of our lives in 2014. We feel deep and sincere gratitude for friends and family who have been at our sides during challenging times as well as with us to celebrate the highlights of this year.

One of the big highlights was co-authoring ANIMAL STARS: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors with Dr. Robin Ganzert, CEO of American Human. What an exciting experience that was for us.

Animal Stars

Animal Stars

Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors by Robin Ganzert, PhD

Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors by Robin Ganzert, PhD

The book features a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of Hollywood’s favorite animal actors. It features moving stories from Julia Roberts, Steven Spielberg, animal trainers, and more!

We travelled to Hollywood to meet and interview trainers who shared their personal experiences with the animal actors featured in the book. The trainers and American Humane Association’s Film & TV Unit were all very gracious and welcoming. When we visited the trainers’ and animals’ homes, ranches, and facilities, we observed that animal actors and their people showed a deep love and respect for each other in what appeared to be much more than a merely professional relationship.

Robin Ganzert

Robin Ganzert Hosting the Hero Dogs Awards

Another 2014 highlight was our visit to the ANIMAL STARS book launch party at Fox Studios in Hollywood and the American Human Association’s Hero Dogs Awards at the Los Angeles Beverly Hilton. What amazing events. Wow! As you can see in the images, we had a blast with hundreds of people and heroic animals who attended.

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

Animal Stars Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

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Animal Stars

A DOG NAMED LEAF

The New York Times Best Seller — A DOG NAMED LEAF

A DOG NAMED LEAF – “Didn’t see that coming!”

What if something really good happens, totally unexpected, and gives hard-working writers hope that anything is possible? Well, something did happen to us in 2014.

Our 2012 memoir A DOG NAMED LEAF about Allen and our rescued cocker spaniel facing life-threatening challenges together made it on to the December 21, 2014 New York Times Best Sellers list!

A DOG NAMED LEAF was very personal book for us to write (and live). We wondered how people would respond to its deeply spiritual experiences and themes. It was our truth, though, and we shared more of our personal lives in this book than in any other writing we have done or that has been written about us.

Linda and Leaf

Linda and Leaf

Leaf and Allen

Leaf and Allen

Leaf

Leaf

To give a glimmer of the gratitude readers of this book have expressed, below is one of the over 60 Amazon.com 4- and 5-star comments.

“My vet gave me a copy of this book. I started reading it and couldn’t put it down! I’m a groomer, and the story told about Leaf and his visits at the groomer’s always comes to mind when I am grooming a difficult dog. (I groom a lot of rescue dogs.) I have loaned my book out to many people and also recommended it to many people. When they read it, their response is always the same as mine: They couldn’t put it down either! This book would make a great gift. I’m buying a second book to donate to our next silent auction to raise money for our local rescue dogs! Hugs and smooches to Leaf!” –Pam

We appreciate Lyon’s Press/Rowman & Littlefield Publishing for the creative work and strategies they used to make it possible for a whole new set of readers to find our book.

A DOG NAMED LEAF

The New York Times Best Seller — A DOG NAMED LEAF

Thanks to those who have read A DOG NAMED LEAF. We love it when you share your thoughts and reactions to the book in emails, social media posts, and customer reviews at online booksellers.

HAVE A HAPPY HOLIDAY and A HAPPY 2015 NEW YEAR.

–Allen and Linda

Finder with Allen and Linda Anderson

Finder with Allen and Linda Anderson