Thursday, November 10, 2011

REVIEW: Animals and the Kids Who Love Them

Animals and the Kids Who Love Them
Extraordinary True Stories of Hope, Healing, and Compassion
by Allen & Linda Anderson
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: New World Library (November 15, 2011)


Allen and Linda Anderson are back with another fabulous installment in their collection of books on animal-human relationships.  In Animals and the Kids Who Love Them, the duo showcases stories about children and animal connections that result in courageous and compassionate acts of love and healing.  These stories amaze and inspire as both animals and children overcome tremendous odds to live with basic skills and mobility that most of us take for granted. 

Animals and the Kids Who Love Them is for animal lovers of all ages.  Smile and heal a little as you read the joyous tales, including:
  • Buckwheat, the llama who helped a young girl overcome severe PTSD
  • Simon, the disabled cat who visits inner-city children while they are being tutored
  • Ricochet, a failed service dog who excelled at raising funds for charitable causes by surfing
  • Snazzy, the black pony who helps a boy learn to talk
  • Woodstock, the chicken who helped a highly anxious young girl become emotionally stronger
  • Sparkles, the Dalmatian who teaches fire safety and whose efforts helped children safely escape home fires
Grab yourself a copy of Animals and the Kids Who Love Them, along with your favorite beverage, and spend a fall afternoon curled up in front of the fire.  You won't be disappointed... in fact, you might find yourself running to pick up additional copies to give to friends!  After all, like peanut butter and jelly or milk and cookies, some things just belong together... a boy and his dog; a girl and her horse...

The following is an excerpt from Animals and the Kids Who Love Them.

My Child with Autism and the Dog Who Adores Her

He came on a cold, blustery winter night from the sickbed of her human companion, Dan. My husband and I wanted to be her forever family, but her nervousness led us to believe her heart remained with her best friend. She could no longer stay by Dan’s side. He was moving into a hospice where he could not take her. We were most impressed with her loving attention to him. There obviously had been a special bond between them, and we knew how sad they would be without each other.
She shivered and looked worried. Even though she was only four years old, her little brow creased with what seemed like a permanent wrinkle. She was a German wire-haired pointer, black except for the perfect gray markings of her breed: gray beard, whiskers, and eyebrows, and gray feathered fur from her knees to her feet. Her name was Maya. We lengthened it to Maya Angel Ah, a playful variation on the name of our family’s favorite author and poet, Maya Angelou.
It was weeks before Maya adjusted to our home. At first, she paced a lot and followed me everywhere, seldom relaxing. We soon learned that one of her fears was that she would be left outside. After Dan became terribly ill, he would let her outdoors and then would be unable to get back up to bring her inside. Minnesota winters can be very hard on a shorthaired dog. So although she was perfectly housetrained, when she asked to go out she raced back indoors after doing her business, fearing that she might be forgotten. Her terror was so great that, at first, when she left through the door, she walked backward into the yard, watching to be sure someone would be waiting for her. Light on her feet, Maya dashed in and out so fast that her feet hardly seemed to touch the ground.
When our daughter, Britty, was eighteen, Maya started following her around the house. Britty has autism and Down syndrome, is cognitively age six or seven, and does not have the use of language. Maya and Britty frequently stared into each other’s eyes, and we imagined they were communicating. Their long gazes were a little unusual, because one of the traits of autism is the avoidance of eye contact. But at their first meeting Maya and Britty both did double takes, as if to say, “Hey, I know you.”
Britty’s habit of twirling ribbons and spinning things, another trait of autism, mesmerized Maya, who seemed almost catlike in her fascination with the movement. She often positioned her head beneath whatever Britty twirled and placed her nose on my daughter’s lap. Now that Maya’s wrinkled brow was smoother and she felt more secure, she occasionally swished her tail so that it touched Britty, much to Britty’s delight. Perhaps the dog was reciprocating because of the special connection between them.
An interesting new aspect of Britty’s focused twirling was that it became more purposeful and connected, which is unusual for a child with autism. In the past Britty had twirled objects in order to tune out the world. Now, she started making the twirling into a game to get Maya’s attention. We saw marked improvement in our daughter’s attentiveness to the world around her after she began to interact with Maya.
As Maya grew to love and trust her new family, she adjusted to being in the yard by herself. Tasks in Maya’s day included the daily ritual of seeing that Britty got on the school bus. This dog is not a barker. So, from the middle of the fenced backyard on our corner lot facing the street, as the bus rounded the corner near our house and pulled into the driveway, she would do a perfect hunting point pose by straightening her feathered tail behind her, lifting one back leg off the ground, lengthening her neck, and pointing her nose at the bus. The kids on the bus and the driver loved it. After Britty got on the bus and it drove away, Maya would circle the yard, run into the house at lightning speed, drink thirstily, and fall to the floor, exhausted.
Just before 2:30 in the afternoon, Maya would pop up from one of her dog beds or the couch and run to the door, knowing full well that her sister was due to come home. She would race around the yard when the bus came, then switch from high gear to low, matching Britty’s slow pace as she walked from the bus to the backyard gate, which opened automatically to let them in our yard.
Maya never left Britty’s side when the two of them were outdoors. If Britty was on the swing, Maya lay beneath it. We found it amazing that the dog never got bumped or hit by the swing. If Britty played on the patio, Maya stretched out in the sun beside her. If Britty moved to the middle of the yard or onto the porch, Maya traveled by her side.
Inside, when Britty watched television shows or DVDs, Maya offered her companionship. Even though there was barely enough room for one of them in the window seat of Britty’s room, Maya snuggled next to our daughter while she listened to music. We gave up trying to get Britty to stop giving scraps from the table at dinnertime to Maya, who fit perfectly under my daughter’s chair, where she waited for the treats. Britty gave food to Maya with one hand while watching us peripherally. And of course, Maya always slept in bed with Britty.
The most comforting symbol of their connection and Maya’s sensitive nature appeared when Britty would occasionally fall ill or otherwise not feel well. We knew right away if Britty was sick, because Maya stayed on the floor next to her bed and not in the bed. With her kind and gentle spirit, she seemed to know to let Britty have the bed to herself. But her furry, wrinkled brow remained exactly an arm’s length away from Britty’s tiny hand.
We are grateful for the nurturing love Maya Angel Ah gives Britty. We thought we were doing the rescuing when Dan could no longer keep her. But she has added an amazing dimension to our family as our daughter’s constant companion. The changes we have noticed since Maya became part of our family include Britty’s better eye contact and more focused attention, as well as the conversations we now have with our daughter. Britty even has a certain new skip to her step that we attribute to Maya’s devotion. In fact, we are all skipping since Maya Angel Ah came into our lives.

Meditation: When a family needs canine intervention, how can a dog contribute to their hopefulness? Has a pet’s devotion made a difference in your life?

Excerpted from the book, Animals and the Kids Who Love Them. Copyright © 2011 by Allen and Linda Anderson. Reprinted with permission from New World Library.


HH and The Boys said...

Great review... HH says that I used to make a huge difference in her life -especially when she was taking care of her mother. I was someone for her to grab onto during the sad times. That's for sure.

pawhugs, Max

SissySees said...

Pets are miracle workers; no doubt about it!

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