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I’ve been working with Allen and Linda Anderson since we signed their first New World Library book in 2002, and ten books later, they’re still finding the best stories ever to share with other animal lovers. (And we love working with them, too!) The stories always go beyond cute antics or touching anecdotes to the deep connection people and animals share. This week, their e-newsletter, Angel Animals Story of the Week, featured a story and photo by Allen about a photo op with Leaf, their charming and smart canine companion. If you want to read more about Leaf, their latest book, Dogs and the Women Who Love Them, includes part of the story of how he and the Andersons found each other. Another part of the story appears in Angel Dogs with a Mission. Enjoy, and then go out to frolic with your favorite dog!
— Georgia Hughes, editorial director
Refusing to Share the Spotlight
The large dog park next to the Mississippi River in Minneapolis is a wonderful place to relax and see the smiling faces of those who love dogs. This weekend I took a break from preparing for our new book launch and brought our cocker spaniel, Leaf, for a visit to the dog park.
We had not gone for a couple of weeks due to my travel and workload. But Saturday morning was to be our time together. Plus, I had an idea for a photo shoot.
I brought my camera and a copy of our newly published book, Dogs and the Women Who Love Them. I told Leaf I wanted to take a picture with the book beside him, because his story is featured in it. I explained that it would be fun to share the photo of him sitting next to his book in one of his favorite places where he likes to run and play.
As silly as this may sound, Linda and I have observed that if we explain in great detail what we want and why, Leaf not only cooperates but also he helps in his own creative way to complete our tasks.
We entered the dog park and walked toward the large tree stump where Leaf sits during each visit. His ritual is to begin the journey by marking his favorite tree stump, jumping on top of it, and surveying his land as if he were King Leaf.
He sat on his stump as I placed the book next to him and prepared the camera for his photo session. All of a sudden, four dogs of different sizes and colors ran up to join Leaf in his photo opportunity. There was a lot of excitement as each dog attempted to jump on the stump and become part of the scene.
Leaf immediately showed his disapproval. He protected his tree stump and chased each dog away, one by one. While this may have been only my imagination, I got the impression that Leaf wanted the spotlight. After all, it’s his story in the book; not the other dogs’. What’s fair is fair. Leaf has a great sense of fairness.
After Leaf chased the other dogs away, he ran back and jumped on the tree stump. I took photos while he posed regally next to his book.
After the photo session we enjoyed an hour of his running, swimming, chasing, and being chased by playful dogs. And as always, he retrieved the balls I repeatedly threw for him.
While we walked on the wooded trail back to the dog park entrance, I saw a woman with short gray hair pushing a cart that contained many small bags. I had always noticed a wooden box with plenty of poop bags for dog park visitors to pick up after their dogs, and I had wondered who put the clean bags in the box. Now, here might be the mysterious “poop bag angel.”
As I looked at this kindly, gentle woman, I felt a lot of light and love in her presence. I asked, “Are you the one who supplies bags for visitors?” With a big smile, she said, “Yes. The company I work for throws them away. I asked if I could take the bags for the dog park, and they let me. So I bring them here every week. People have so much on their minds. It’s one of the only times they can go somewhere and just enjoy being with their dogs. I want to help them do that.”
I thanked the woman and asked if I could give her a copy of Dogs and the Women Who Love Them as a thank-you for her labor of love. I looked over toward where Leaf sat, as he watched us talking. “This is his special place to be,” I explained. She looked at the book cover and with the sweetest smile of gratitude said, “Oh my! Thank you.”
As we left the dog park I also felt gratitude for the time I’ve spent with our dog in a very special place and how far he has come since we first adopted him. Linda wrote about his journey from fear to trust and love in our new book. Be sure to look for his story, “Winning the Love of a Dog Who Wouldn’t Kiss Me.”
Allen Anderson is cofounder (with his wife, Linda Anderson) of the Angel Animals Network. Allen and Linda are the authors of numerous books on the animal-human connection. They donate a portion of proceeds from book sales to animal welfare organizations and live with their pets in Minneapolis.