Read an Excerpt
Divine Messengers of Love
By Allen Anderson, Linda Anderson
New World LibraryCopyright © 2005 Allen and Linda Anderson
All rights reserved.
Have You Received Loyalty and Friendship from Divine Messenger Dogs?
Sometimes animals seem to have been put on the earth for the specific purpose of caring about and helping us. They are powerful forces for good.
— Kristin von Kreisler, The Compassion of Animals
After the events of September 11, 2001, Jon Stewart, host and resident satirist on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, was devastated, along with most of the world. His way to deal with the tragedy was one that millions have found lifts their spirits as nothing else can: he adopted a puppy.
As America reeled after September 11 from the loss of life and the feeling of vulnerability within its own shores, an unfortunate backlash toward people of Arab descent or Muslim belief occurred in some places. Ahmed Tharwat is the host and producer of Belahdan, an Arab American talk show on Public TV, Channel 17 in Minneapolis. A few months after 9/11, Ahmed's daughter persuaded him to adopt a beagle puppy. Later, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune about taking the puppy for walks and the effects the young dog had on people around them. "Strangers who used to skillfully avoid eye contact now wanted to engage me in warm conversation. Patriotic national hotline tippers, usually more concerned about Muslim sleepers and terrorism, now cordially inquired about my dog's sleeping habits, breed, and big, black eyes. People's interest had taken a blessed turn. Their mood was inviting — families congregated around me to see the cute puppy. For me, a dog single-handedly brought the American melting pot down to a simmer. He accomplished what years of diversity training have failed to do. Regardless of our race or country of origin, we have become a community of dog lovers."
The friendship and loyalty of dogs help human beings to get through just about any of life's changes and sudden curves. This is because dogs are fantastic stress relievers. In a study of 240 couples conducted by Karen Allen, of the State University of New York at Buffalo, when people were tested on stressful tasks in the company of their pets, they coped better than when they were alone or when a friend or spouse was nearby.
Dogs have an enormous capacity for helping people forget their worries and anxieties. The reason is really very simple: dogs are good friends; their loyalty is unswerving. Perhaps this is why 80 percent of the people surveyed in a study by the American Animal Hospital Association selected companionship as their major reason for having a pet.
Dogs have become important to the daily lives and emotional well-being of millions. As a society, we have accepted the obligation to preserve and protect this beneficial relationship. Today, people file lawsuits to uphold the rights of animals. Feuding spouses contest each other in divorce hearings over who will have custody of the dog. It is not at all out of the norm for human companions to spend thousands of dollars for surgeries and other procedures to alleviate the suffering and extend the lives of their ailing and aging pets. Dogs these days are full-fledged members of the family, and as they take over our hearts and homes with their endearing ways, we bestow upon them rights and privileges (as well as clothing and jewelry) that used to belong only to human beings.
Treating dogs as human beings has its up- and downsides. The positive outcome is that the humane treatment of dogs and other animals improves as people become more aware that animals have thoughts, feelings, and even divine purposes. The downside is that at times, it's a burden on the animal when people try to transform a dog into a human. The dogness is obscured or lost. When the lines get too blurred, differences that have made the human-dog relationship complementary and valuable throughout the ages fade away.
The modern inclination is to forget that dogs, as lovable and capable of acting beyond instinct as they are, can and do revert to instinct. The tendency to turn dogs into unquestioning protectors and defenders ignores other aspects of their nature. Just as humans are not all alike, dogs are not all alike. Just as humans behave badly at times, dogs do too.
For example, it could be tempting, especially after you read the stories in this book about dogs saving the lives of infants and toddlers, to think that your dog is an ideal babysitter. But each dog is unique. Some breeds are inclined to herd, and they naturally help to keep children away from danger. Other breeds may have more aggressive natures. And no matter the breed, some dogs may have been subjected to abuse that scarred their emotions and personalities, leaving them anxious, edgy, or overly aggressive. This could mean that in a time of crisis, or if something triggers the dog's instinct to attack, a nearby child (or adult) could be in danger.
One area of concern is when babies are in swings. The back-and-forth swinging motion can send an impulse to the dog to chase prey. Catherine Mills, a North Carolina dog trainer, and John C. Wright, an animal behaviorist with Mercer University, say that "pets should be conditioned to ignore swings before a baby is put into one." As with any relationship, whether with animal or human, it's good to use common sense and always keep an eye on the situation. And of course, be cautious about leaving a baby or young child alone, even with the family pet.
That said, most dogs are astoundingly perceptive, accommodating, and loyal to a fault. They are also masters at forgiveness. In the following stories, notice the number of times dogs have been scheduled for euthanization because of overcrowded animal shelters and irresponsible humans who abandoned them. When the dogs are rescued, they don't hold grudges against humanity, but become people's most enduring friends.
In this chapter you'll meet dogs who went far above and beyond what most humans can or will offer one another in friendship and loyalty. We hope the stories will remind you of the companionship that dogs have brought to your life and the messages of unconditional love that they have imprinted upon your heart.
* * *
Cpl. J. R. Dugan Honors a Fallen Soldier
Charles Patrick Dugan
Del Rio, Texas
I named my dog, a Jack Russell terrier who is twenty-three pounds of solid muscle, Cpl. J. R. Dugan, USMC 2164539. I gave him the combination of the initials for his breed, Jack Russell, (J. R.) with my U.S. Marine Corps rank and serial number, because this dog has the heart of a lion. I call him Cpl. J. R. Dugan or Cpl. J. R., for short. He is tricolor with a light brown patch over one eye that makes him look like a little pirate. Cpl. J. R. is fearless and the smartest dog I have ever had. He is the little heartbeat at my feet.
As a Marine Corps infantryman survivor of heavy combat in the Vietnam War, I have always believed that it is important to recognize the courage and bravery of every man or woman who has served in our country's military. What I didn't realize until one late October day in 2003 was that it would be my dog who demonstrated how vital it is that we never forget those who gave their lives so that others could live.
The favorite place for Cpl. J. R. Dugan and me to walk is the Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery in Del Rio, Texas. This cemetery is one of four cemeteries that are located side by side — Saint Joseph's Catholic Cemetery, Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery, Westlawn Protestant Cemetery, and the Masonic Cemetery. J. R. and I spend countless hours weaving in and out of all four cemeteries and enjoying the lush trees and abundant wildlife. Numerous species of birds, deer, rabbits, and squirrels populate this oasis in the harsh semidesert environment of Del Rio. J. R. and I both prefer these pleasant strolls through nature to walking around a circular track.
J. R. and I were having a late-afternoon stroll that started like all the rest of our walks, with the exception of a misting rain and a discernible chill in the air. I had parked my SUV near my family's burial plot and put a light pack on my shoulders. I always carry water, a collapsible water bowl for J. R., J. R.'s first-aid kit, a Swiss Army knife, a snack for both of us, my bird identification field manual, and my trusty Nikon 7x50 binoculars. I made all the pack adjustments, picked up my walking staff, grasped Cpl. J. R.'s leash, and we were off on another adventure.
The wind picked up, and the chill in the air became more pronounced, so I buttoned my windbreaker and pushed my hat a little farther down on my forehead. Cpl. J. R. loved the chill and was prancing like a prize stallion in a parade. I love to watch him be so full of life. Our walks are made more enjoyable by the fact that Cpl. J. R. and I have learned to work as a team. This dog misses nothing. Instead of barking, he always alerts me by making eye contact when he sees something move. After Cpl. J. R. detects animal movement, I can stop and observe the animal with my binoculars.
Our walking trips through the cemeteries are like a time machine that takes us back to the origins of our community. I pass the grave sites of old family friends, mentors, teachers, pioneers, villains, and people who now are known only to God. These are very special walks, since they give me time to reflect and appreciate all the people who helped to make me who I am today.
On this autumn afternoon, Cpl. J. R. and I had walked for nearly an hour when I noticed that he was getting a little tired. He had stopped to show me his extended tongue, his signal that he wanted some water. For our break, I always stop at a little meditation bench in the Masonic Cemetery to enjoy our well-deserved snack and drink.
For some reason, Cpl. J. R. did not want to stop at our usual place this afternoon. Instead, he seemed to be distracted and was pulling me to go in a different direction. I gave in and let him lead me. He appeared to be on a mission and was making a beeline toward another bench that we had never used before. I was becoming concerned at his wild behavior. Today, he suddenly appeared to be obsessed with getting to a destination known only to him.
When we arrived at the bench, I sat down and let Cpl. J. R. have a lot of leash. He started scratching at a grave that had been covered by years of dirt, leaves, and neglect. I watched in amazement, as this was the only grave that I have ever seen him scratch at like this. He frantically threw dirt in every direction. I became worried that there might be something beneath the leaves that could hurt him, so I stood up to rein him in.
As I walked behind him, my interest was piqued when I saw that Cpl. J. R. had been digging at a military gravestone. He turned and looked at me as if to ask for my assistance. I got down on my knees and began to scrape the dirt and debris away from the stone. As I reached the surface of the stone and my hand swept the final layer away, Cpl. J. R. stopped. Rigidly, he stared at the stone. My head turned away from Cpl. J. R., and I looked at the tombstone. I could not breathe, and my heart pounded as I read the tombstone's inscription:
JACK A. RUSSELL
CPL SIGNAL CORPS
JULY 21, 1928 – JULY 16, 1952
I was speechless. It seemed as if all time and motion had frozen. A sudden chill ran up my spine. Cpl. J. R. laid his head on both paws and rested on the headstone of Cpl. Jack Russell, a soldier with his own name, who had been killed in the Korean War. The poor condition of the soldier's grave site indicated that this was a man who was not being remembered by friends, family, or lovers. But somehow, Cpl. Jack A. Russell had a link to my little dog. Cpl. J. R. and I both sat for a long time, paying our respects to this man who had served his country and made the ultimate sacrifice in time of war.
While we lingered at Cpl. Russell's grave, I tried to gather my wits as to what had just happened. It was amazing to be part of an experience that had joined all of us together in a brief moment in time and eternity.
Later, Cpl. J. R. and I cleaned the grave site and tombstone of Cpl. Jack A. Russell, to make it a visible and very important part of this world again. I continue to marvel at how, on this day so near to November's Veterans Day, a little dog paid honor and respect by bringing new meaning to the belief that no soldier should ever be forgotten.
Has a dog remembered and showed honor to you, a loved one, or even a stranger in a way that surprised you?
An Angel in the Night
as told to Mary J. Yerkes
With the long, dark winter finally behind us, a brisk March wind ushered in spring — and on its heels, an angel in the night came to live with us.
A sudden gust of wind caught the bottom of his coat as my husband, Forrest, carefully tucked Lauren, the youngest of our five children, into the baby's car seat. The wind was unusually bad, making our short drive to the airport difficult. From the passenger's seat, I watched as Forrest's knuckles gripped the top of the steering wheel. He fought to keep our minivan from drifting into the next lane. It seemed a fitting metaphor to describe the past year — a real white-knuckle ride!
Our youngest twins, Lauren and Branden, were born eight weeks premature. Within minutes of her birth, Lauren, the smaller of the two, had stopped breathing. In the hospital, I watched in horror as her tiny pink lips turned blue. She was quickly resuscitated, whisked off to the neonatal intensive care unit, and placed on a ventilator. Branden didn't fare much better. A month later, Lauren and Branden, both on apnea monitors, came home to meet their brother and sisters. The older twins, Brianna and little Forrest, were three, and Taylor was two. We quickly established a routine. Within weeks, we were ready to welcome yet another new member of the family, Zeke. We didn't think that our family would be complete without a dog! So we were on our way on this windy night to bring him home.
At the airport, I leaned over to Forrest and whispered, "What if it doesn't work out? Zeke's two years old and probably set in his ways. What if he can't adjust?"
"The breeder was sure he would, Diana," Forrest reminded me.
I had searched long and hard for a responsible collie breeder before I found Susan. After I explained that we have five children — two with serious health problems — she wisely steered us away from a puppy.
"Diana," Susan said when I called her, "I have a two-year-old champion collie. Zeke will be perfect for your family. He's a beautiful tricolor and a true collie in every sense. He loves life, and he especially loves children."
Even though I had my heart set on having a puppy, with Susan's recommendation, I agreed to give Zeke a try.
Now my thoughts were interrupted by a high-pitched squeal. "Zeke's here!" announced Brianna. An attendant ushered us to a large crate, where I saw a long nose pushed up against the wire with a mass of ebony and white fur behind it. After speaking a few reassuring words to Zeke, I nodded to the attendant and said, "We're ready."
Zeke inched his way out, looking cautious yet curious. Within seconds, my animal lover Brianna threw her tiny arms around Zeke's neck, buried her face in his long fur, and murmured, "I love you, Zeke." Little Forrest added, "We're your new family. Welcome home!"
Zeke quickly settled in to his new life with us. We arranged his bed in the master bedroom. But right from the start, Zeke made it clear that he preferred sleeping in the nursery between the babies' cribs. There was barely room to move with five oxygen canisters, a suction machine, and all of the other medical equipment in the room. But the nurse who helped us care for the twins didn't mind, so I decided to let Zeke stay with her and the infants.
One night, about three weeks after his arrival, Zeke jumped up on my side of the bed and thwacked me with his paw. I glanced at the clock; it was 3:30 A.M. "Go back to sleep, Zeke," I murmured. Zeke refused to take no for an answer. Instead, he ran barking back and forth between my side of the bed and the door.
Excerpted from Angel Dogs by Allen Anderson, Linda Anderson. Copyright © 2005 Allen and Linda Anderson. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.