A Talk With Linda and Allen Anderson, authors of Angel Dogs with a Mission

[Editor’s Note: Angel Dogs with a Mission: Divine Messengers in Service to All Life is a book every animal lover should read. A collection of extraordinary stories about heroic working dogs, it reminds us how dogs enrich our lives…and for little in return. The world would be a poorer place without our four-legged angel friends.]

What kind of missions do dogs have?

Dogs protect, heal, mend broken hearts, save lives, and give service to those who need it. Dogs let people know that no matter how desperate they might be feeling, they are loved by at least one creature on this earth.

Why do you say that the dogs in this book have missions?

The stories in this book demonstrate that, given the opportunity, dogs are purposeful. They make choices about what they want to do, use their natural talents and instincts, and serve humans and other animals in fulfilling ways. There are definite parallels between people and dogs finding purpose in life. Some dogs are suited for certain types of service and take to it naturally. Others are trained and become proficient. Some dogs make mid-life changes in careers when they find another path that fits them bitter.

Can dogs go beyond what would be expected of their breed or training and choose to serve?

Many of the dogs in this book work or give service in ways that are beyond training and instinct. For example, Di Thompson and her husband adopted an abused dog named Angel. When they brought the dog home, Angel immediately began to stay close and walk by the side of the couple’s older dog. Shortly after Angel arrived, they realized that the older dog had been going blind, and Angel was now serving as his guide dog.

Later in the story, Di tells about Angel’s uncanny ability to give service in her mother’s nursing home facility. Angel’s loving presence caused people who had not communicated with anyone to begin to talk. One man recovered from a stroke and got out of the rehabilitation facility due to Angel’s insistence on being his friend. You could train a dog to walk around in a nursing home or hospital but you couldn’t train her to know which people most needed her help.

How have dogs inspired people to fulfill their life’s purpose?

David Hartwig and his wife Barbara rescued a dog named Skidboot, an abandoned Texas blue heeler puppy. Things weren’t going well for the dog or David at the time. He was an aging cowboy who needed to find a less demanding line of work and had started riding horses as an entertainer.

After he trained Skidboot with some unorthodox methods that built upon the dog’s breed, as a herder, and his intelligence, Skidboot became a great entertainer. He and David won Animal Planet’s Pet Star show contest. This landed the duo on Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Oprah shows, among others.

For the rest of his life David and Skidboot entertained people and raised money to benefit animal shelters. David’s life became more fulfilled and exciting because Skidboot had embraced his purpose of bringing joy to people and making them laugh.

What are some of the most unusual missions the dogs in your book have?

One little dog, a Chihuahua- rat terrier mix named Midge, is the tiniest police dog in the world. She is trained to sniff narcotics. Midge also travels to schools with Sheriff Dan McClelland to let children know that even though you might be little or different, you can still have big dreams.

Kobi is a cancer-sniffing dog, trained to do early detection of cancer cells. He was so good at the job that the researchers at the Pine Street Foundation had a star named after him.

Our dog Leaf, an abandoned cocker spaniel, had the mission of giving hope to Allen as he faced with a life-threatening, crisis. When Allen was at his lowest point, Leaf served as a divine messenger to let him know that all was not lost. This story is quite dramatic, but it is along the same vein of many others we have collected over the years in which dogs become the angelic vehicles who deliver unconditional love with every wag of their tails.

Angel Dogs with a Mission: Divine Messengers in Service to All Life by Allen & Linda Anderson (New World Library, ISBN 978-1-57731-602-2).