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Local Lit: Dogs and the authors who love them
There are dog people (it's safe to say Sidewalk Dog's entire readership falls under this category, no?), and then there are people who eat, sleep and breathe dogs. Linda and Allen Anderson are two of the latter category's best representatives. This Minnesota couple founded the Angel Animals Network, an online forum for stories about how pets are making our lives better one tail wag at a time.
Their new book, Dogs and the Women Who Love Them, was just released, and features stories from many dog moms, Minnesotan and otherwise. It's already getting rave reviews from actresses Vanessa White, Wendy Malick, and America's dog-loving sweetheart, Betty White.
Sidewalk Dog: How did Angel Animals Network start?
Andersons: We started Angel Animals Network in 1996. After walking around Lake Harriet with our yellow Lab Taylor, we started talking about how much joy she brought into our lives and the lives of others. People would stop us and ask, 'Do you know your dog is smiling?' This caused us to think about all we were learning from Taylor and the two cats and two birds who had filled our empty nest. They showed joy, gratitude, compassion, creativity, and unconditional love. So we decided to ask people if animals were helping them become better human beings and what pets were contributing to their lives. Within 60 to 90 days, we had hundreds of responses from all over the world through the Internet and from posters we put up around the Twin Cities. Those heartfelt stories became the basis for our first printed Angel Animals newsletter. We wrote a book proposal, found an agent, found a publisher, and had a contract for our first book, Angel Animals. Now, 13 books later, we're still gathering and writing true, amazing stories about the benefitis of human-animal companionship.
Allen and Linda Anderson
SD: What inspired you to write this book?
Andersons: Most of the stories we receive are from women. It seemed a good fit to write a book that honored the relationship between dogs and women that is unlike any other.
SD: Which Minnesota women did you feature in the book?
Andersons: [Animal communicator] Sage Lewis wrote about how her Plott hound Java completely changed the course of her life and taught her how to play and have fun even while going through tough transitions. Jenny Pavlovic, a bio-engineer and author, wrote about her experiences going to the New Orleans area to rescue animals after Hurricane Katrina. She returned with an Australian cattle dog she named 8 State Hurricane Kate. Linda has a story in this book, too, about adopting a rescued dog who had been abandoned and how he grew into showing affection to her.
SD: Anything else that you'd like to add?
Andersons: At each book event, we feature an animal group to let the community know how they can support it and volunteer. Lately we have been featuring the Minnesota R.E.A.D. dogs, the ones who listen to children read. At the new book's website, there are short videos of Linda reading to R.E.A.D. dogs about how wonderful dogs are. Each quarter we donate a portion of proceeds to a nonprofit animal organization. Last quarter it was Patriot PAWS - featured in the book - which trains service dogs for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. This quarter, we're donating to The Pet Project to help fund buying pet food for local food banks.
SD: Do you have any favorite dog-friendly or dog-related destinations in or around the Twin Cities?
Andersons: We love the dog parks, especially the big one along the Mississippi River at Minnehaha Falls. Any restaurant or cafe that allows us to eat on the patio with our dog also has our vote as a favorite place. When we are working long hours or have to travel for our books, Leaf is happy to hang out at Pampered Pooch Playground where he thoroughly enjoys himself. We watch their webcam and see him playing and having a blast.