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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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)