The Divinity of Dogs is about the moments you learn something profound about life from an experience with a dog. Featuring more than seventy stories culled from hundreds of submissions to the author’s website, these inspiring and heartwarming true stories show where love, tolerance, comfort, compassion, loyalty, joyfulness, and even death have provided experiences that have led to spiritual enlightenment.
You’ll meet Little Bit, the Chihuahua who detected a small lump in her owner’s breast, a growth even doctors couldn’t find. There’s Emma, the devoted Rottweiler who ferociously grabbed her owner’s arm at the moment he was trying to commit suicide, saving his life. You’ll be inspired by Luna, the Retriever who dragged her owner to safety after she collapsed late at night in a field. And you’ll fall in love with the many dogs who simply provide steady comfort when needed— dogs like Bo, the Boxer who soothed his mistress after the loss of her son. The author also weaves her own experiences with dogs throughout the book, showing how they comforted her through mistreatment as a child, a divorce, and a cancer diagnosis.
The stories that make up The Divinity of Dogs provide hope, help, and healing for readers in the complex and difficult times in which we live. Whether you believe dogs are divine or are actually a gift from the divine, The Divinity of Dogs gives you permission to accept what you know: dogs are healers, educators, protectors, and tangible examples of pure love.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Divine (di.vine) 1. Relating to or being directly from God 2. Having godlike nature 3. Lovely
This was a difficult book to write. It’s a memoir and a book of other people’s experiences. Documenting the trials of people and how dogs have helped them through those trials has been a privilege. But reliving my own difficulties was humbling, at times disturbing, and often sad as I forced myself to remember the times so many beautiful souls have helped me through the challenges of my life. I’ve shed many tears while writing this book.
I believe life is a journey and that we’re here to learn and grow spiritually. I also believe dogs are a gift from the Divine sent here to help us on our way. The Divinity of Dogs is about people’s moments of enlightenment with dogs. It includes stories in which love, tolerance, comfort, compassion, loyalty, joyfulness, and even death have provided inspirational lessons about life from experiences with dogs.
Whether you believe dogs are divine or a gift from the Divine, The Divinity of Dogs gives you permission to accept what you know: dogs provide us with a clear example of all that is good. They are healers, educators, protectors, and tangible examples of divine love. For those of you who agree with this philosophy, this book confirms all we know and puts an exclamation point on it!
It wasn’t until I edited my first book, God Stories, and received thousands of stories about people’s connection with the Divine, that I realized my personal experience with dogs was shared with countless others. People wrote and told me about the private moments that changed their lives. Their stories were profound and amazing—the type that warm your heart and make you cry out loud. They catapulted me into other people’s trials, leaving me with a sense of appreciation for all I have. I decided these were stories that needed to be told, to document the divinity of dogs and to give us a library of inspiring life lessons. Writing The Divinity of Dogs, for me, was also very personal.
My dogs have gently guided me through life. As a child, when I was fearful and sad, my Golden Retriever, Sally, was my strength and savior. Later in life, when I was recovering from a tumor in my bone marrow, Philophal, a mix of Terrier and Poodle, and Nicky, a Basenji-Lab cross, would jump on me until I got out of bed each day. Nicky’s separation anxiety, and the destructive behavior that came with it, gave me a lesson in patience, while Mary the Spitz calmed my storms and taught me how to love. Clara the Boxer was my first friend, and Clemmie the Cockapoo my first rescue. Chickpea, my one-eyed Shih Tzu, has been the child I never had, while CousCous the Maltese-Pomeranian has licked me awake with love and questionable breath every morning. When at times I didn’t want to go on any longer, my love for dogs kept me here.
My dogs have been the reason I have woken up every single day of my life with a smile on my face. They have protected me from mean people and have given me insight into potential partners. They have been my children and my parents. They have loved me the most. I am among the ranks of millions of people who appreciate the souls of dogs and know they are a gift of pure love and an example of all that is good. More than anything, they have taught me how to be a better person. I’m not alone. The world is filled with people who have reached the same conclusion and are happy to share why.
• Scott Thornsley thought his life was over. He lost his job of nineteen years, and his wife left him. He felt no one loved or wanted him. He decided to kill himself. At the very moment he chose to act on his decision, his Rottweiler, Emma, ran into the room, grabbed his hand ferociously, and pulled him to the front door. What happened next, in the darkest moment of his life, saved him.
• Joy Peterkin lost her home and belongings in Hurricane Katrina—but she still had her Chihuahua, Little Bit. Just as Joy was finding some normalcy in her life, Little Bit began persistently nudging a spot on her breast. In this book, we find out what Little Bit knew that doctors didn’t.
• Mazie the Lab was on death row at a shelter. She was rescued by a prison canine-training program and then by a service-dog charity. Freda Powell was in her own battle with life. She was a deaf parent with autistic twin boys and was trying to survive the loss of her oldest son in a heartbreaking tragedy. The last thing Freda wanted was a dog, until Mazie came and rescued her entire family.
• Alyssa Denis was in her early twenties when she was diagnosed with severe systemic lupus. She was a shut-in, confined to her bed, in pain and living alone. Doctors told her she wouldn’t live past the age of twenty-five. That’s when she applied for a service dog. In this book, you learn how Luna the Labrador gave Alyssa a reason to get up and live the life she was told she’d never have.
• In 1956 and 1957, a number of teenagers in Chicago were brutally murdered by a suspected serial killer. Gloria Wardrum was nineteen and worked during the day. The only time she could walk her always-friendly Airedale Terrier, Ginger, was in the evening. One afternoon, at dusk, while playing with Ginger in a park, Gloria fell asleep against a tree. She abruptly awoke to Ginger’s fierce growls as the dog tugged at her leash, trying to get to a man who was approaching. The man was twisting a rope between his hands as he got closer. What happened next proved to Gloria the divinity of dogs.
Miracles associated with dogs have been documented throughout history and are one of the reasons people have always felt a heavenly connection to them. Thousands of years ago, in Mesopotamia, a land that is now Iraq, followers of Gula, the Goddess of Healing, actually called the dog “The Divinity.” Egyptians had dog-gods and were often buried with dogs to guide and protect them in the afterlife. Aboriginal people on every continent have connected dogs to holy places. Tribes, religions, and societies throughout time have considered the dog a god. What’s amazing is that before there were easy means of long-distance communication, people in separate parts of the world felt the same way about dogs.
Jesus Christ, one of the most influential people in history, asked people to strive for certain character qualities for which dogs are well known: joyfulness, generosity, love, sensitivity, compassion, tolerance, contentment, forgiveness, loyalty, patience, gratefulness, enthusiasm, and dependability. Who do you know in your house who possesses these qualities at all times? In my house (it’s hard to admit, but it’s true), the only selfless love comes from the dogs. Recently, torn between being with my husband in Australia and rushing to the side of my dying dog CousCous in the United States, things got heated. I turned to my husband and said, “I love her more than I love you. She’s my baby. Your love has conditions. Hers doesn’t.” He smiled and then laughed. What a great guy! I got on the next plane. CousCous lived!
How can a dog possess all the character traits we strive for but can never completely achieve? Are their dispositions divine, or are dogs actually gifts from the Divine? The stories in this book provide some of the answers to those questions.
Today, published medical research confirms that people with dogs have reduced stress, lower blood pressure, less heart disease, and they suffer from lower rates of depression than people who don’t have dogs. These days, we have therapy dogs who visit hospitals and nursing homes, guide dogs who protect, sniffer dogs who rescue, police dogs who serve, and dogs who doctors agree can reach a sick child when medicine and other people can’t.
I am a person who has received the gift of emotional healing from a dog. When I was seven years old, a Retriever named Sally was my best friend, confidante, and constant companion. She enthusiastically watched as I danced and sang along to David Cassidy records and rejoiced in our walks along the rocky coastline of Maine. We lived a happy life. A few years later, my parents’ marriage ended, and I moved into a house with a cruel and inhumane stepfather. My world rocked as I became a victim and lived a fearful existence. My only constant was Sally. I was no longer permitted to sleep with her, but when I could, I’d sneak outdoors to the kennel and lie with her on the concrete, the only place where all was warm, loving, and safe.
Many people share similar stories. The solace we get from dogs is like a warm blanket of love engulfing us, no matter our worries. This book is a glimpse into the lives of people who have been inspired by a dog.
Many of the dogs in this book are rescues. That means they were given up, abandoned, confiscated for cruelty, or lost and ended up at a shelter. Many were scheduled to die and were rescued at the last minute. I have asked the contributors to this book to nominate a charity at the end of each story, to give you the chance to see the good work being done by people throughout the world, to help the voiceless. Most of the dogs in this book came from the charities in their stories. If you allow yourself to become immersed in each story and its message, I promise you the clouds in your own sky will dissipate as you realize all you have and how simple it is to live your life joyfully.
As much as we look up at the stars and know there is more than life on earth, the divinity of dogs is just as unexplainable and profound. They may be the purest example of divine love in an earthly soul many of us ever experience. If we take their lead, open our hearts, and embrace their love, we may just find our own journey a lot more enlightening.
Table of Contents
Love: Embracing the Gift 7
Comfort: Soothing the Soul 33
Intuition: The Theory of Truth 67
Healing: Restoring the Balance 103
Gratitude: Appreciating Home 147
Loyalty: Dependability with Kindness 195
Passing: The Wisdom of Knowing 219
Compassion: Understanding with Empathy 259
Forgiveness: Acceptance Without Judgment 291
Contributor Index 325
Photography Credits 326