Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: A Dog Named Leaf, by Allen and Linda Anderson

Okay, I confess. A very awesome thing about dog blogging (dlogging, as my fiancé likes to call it) is that people want me to read their books. Me! And I freaking love reading books. Especially dog books. Said fiancé has remarked that he didn't even know this many dog books exist, and yet I keep bringing them home. Or getting them in the mail.

Obviously, when Allen Anderson (of the Angel Animals Network, I later learned) emailed me to see if I wanted to read and review A Dog Named Leaf, I said yes.

The book opens with Anderson having just discovered that he has an unruptured brain aneurysm. Heavy stuff, to be sure. Those sorts of situations make you wonder how you would react, and make you thankful that it wasn't you getting the phone call. Anderson makes it home to his wife Linda (the co author of the book) and his dog Leaf, a Cocker Spaniel they'd adopted from their local shelter.

Leaf was originally called Harley by the shelter, as that's the vehicle that dropped him off int he "after hours box" (can you imagine having a Cocker Spaniel with you on a Harley?) Allen and Linda were visiting the shelter (where they had volunteered in the past) and felt an instant connection with the little guy. Anderson reflects on how unusual this was for them; they did no research into the breed, made no preparations for bringing a new dog home so soon after the passing of their lab. But they went with Harley, whose name changed to Leaf on the drive home.

Adjusting to life with Leaf, and helping Leaf become the dog he was meant to be took time. Leaf was frequently fearful of things, even being approached and pet in his own house. Leaf had to be muzzled at the groomer's (something that Anderson did not discuss with the groomer in depth until almost the end of the book, a year later, to my surprise). But as the Andersons worked with him, and loved him, and got him out in the world, Leaf became a far more friendly and intrepid dog. He became the ringmaster at doggie daycare. He was very successful at the dog park (for the most part; some early forays made me wonder why they even went back).

Then the Leaf and aneurysm portions of the story dovetail. Anderson and his wife were under a lot of stress leading up to the surgery. After the surgery, which clipped the aneurysm in Anderson's frontal lobe, he found himself dealing with physical pain, and also roiling emotions (quick primer [look, my psychology degree at work!]: the frontal lobe of the brain is believed to be responsible for things like planning and some emotional regulation. In the classic case of Phineas Gage, who received a profound injury to his frontal lobe via tamping rod, Gage, previously a mild and well liked man, lived but became ill tempered). This is where Leaf really started to shine.

Leaf showed a profound understanding of the emotional "stuff" that Allen was going through. At one point, Allen was getting angry in traffic, and leaf reached over and turned on the CD player! That was a really neat story, I thought (especially because, had I not stopped her, Elka would have turned OFF the Xbox at least once. Deliberately). Leaf had a sense of who needed what, and when, and put it to excellent use.

But, I'm not going to tell the whole story of the book! If you'd like to read it, I'm giving this copy away. Leave a comment (please not Anonymously, unless you also leave an email address, or else I won't know who you are) between now (3-15-13) and Tuesday (3-19-13), and I'll announce the winner sometime after that, via Elka selection.

FTC disclosure: I received a free copy of A Dog Named Leaf for review. I received no other compensation for this review.

Correction: When Allen read the post and emailed me back, he said "We actually did tell the groomer about the vet muzzling Leaf and talked to her extensively about his issues. Patty, thank goodness, agreed to take him on anyway.But it wasn't until a year later that she told us about her experiences with him and how the two of them had worked through the trauma together. "So, my apologies for that.


  1. LOVE dog stories...can't get enough of them!

  2. oh oh oh I LOVE dog books (as my blog clearly shows) and I would love to read and review it myself :)

    Stop on by for a visit