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.

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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

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 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.

IS YOUR PET CONSIDERATE?

We don’t recall seeing articles about animal family members being considerate. There have been some studies showing animal altruism though.

In our home, our cat Cuddles lives up to her name and cuddles up next to Linda at night on our bed. She’s very considerate not to wake up Linda until morning, when she decides it’s time for her breakfast.

Our cockatiel Sunshine is considerate when we use the spray bottle, filled with warm water, to give him his morning bath. He raises his wings so we can spray under them and puts his head down for a good spray of his head feathers.

The reason this theme is on our minds today, though, is that our dog Leaf, one of our life’s greatest spiritual teachers, often shows us consideration. He’s definitely not a – my way or the highway – kind of guy.

Although we mainly do our writing at home, if we need to meet with a client, Linda carefully puts on her makeup to prepare. Sensing that we’re about to leave the house, Leaf is eager to kiss Linda’s face with his long, pink tongue. So Linda says, “Leaf, don’t kiss off all my makeup.” And she turns away so he can’t reach her cheeks.

The other day, it appeared that Leaf got the message. As Linda was ready to leave the house, she bent down to kiss him on his head. In turn, he very carefully kissed her only on the tip of her nose. With great discipline, he put his tongue back in his mouth and refrained from plastering her face with any more kisses.

Considerate.

Have your pets been considerate to you or others? Send us your stories to .

Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network — Spiritual Perspectives for People Who Believe Pets Are Family Member
http://www.angelanimals.net

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A DOG NAMED LEAF — “the most unusual dog book ever”

A DOG NAMED LEAF

When Allen Anderson’s doctor called him with life-shattering news that he had two potentially fatal conditions – a brain aneurysm, which could rupture at any time, and a blood clot aimed at his heart, he faced even more harrowing prospects than when he worked as an inner city Atlanta police officer. Although his wife Linda called him ‘Miracle Man,’ because he’d survived so many close calls, Allen thought his luck had finally run out. He could die suddenly or be debilitated like his father who suffered for years after a massive stroke.

Allen and Linda, empty-nesters whose children were grown, had recently rescued a one-year-old cocker spaniel they named Leaf, and the dog desperately needed their help to heal from traumatic effects of abandonment. After Allen’s diagnosis, he and his dog became comrades facing battles together.

Similar to the popular accounts by medical doctors and scientists who have had near-death experiences, Allen was unexpectedly catapulted into realms typically reserved for science fiction, such as credible otherworldly visions and end-of-life flashes.

Leaf’s demonstrations of heightened awareness defied easy explanations, too. Yet they echoed findings of a University of Western Ontario study that documents dogs are extremely good at figuring out what people need. Also, Goldsmiths College’s research on empathy suggests dogs consistently attempt to comfort their owners who are in distress.

Allen’s dual journey of a man and a dog coming together at exactly the right time for mutual healing raises profound questions about unexplored realms of consciousness, the reality of heaven, and new frontiers in relationships with animals. His hope is that by telling his story with honesty and courage, it will offer hope to anyone who has felt alone, powerless against fate, or who has wanted to find a true purpose in life.
A Dog Named Leaf (ISBN-10: 0762781654, ISBN-13: 978-0762781652), a 224-page paperback published by Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot, 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 http://www.facebook.com/adognamedleaf

 

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A DOG NAMED LEAF: The Hero Dog from Heaven Who Saved My Life

A DOG NAMED LEAF:
The Hero Dog from Heaven Who Saved My Life
By Allen Anderson with Linda Anderson
(Lyon’s Press, a division of Globe Pequot Press, November 6, 2012), ISBN-10: 0762781653

Description:
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. Having seen his father live for years with the effects of a massive stroke, he dreaded that the worst fate might not be death. What Allen didn’t know is that he and Leaf, like comrades facing the ultimate battle, would be there for each other with the miracle of this man and this dog coming together at exactly the right time.

http://www.adognamedleaf.com

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