Angel Animals Among Us
By Allen and Linda Anderson
People need the comfort of animals now more than ever. Animals remind them that goodness, kindness, and love still exist in a world where hatred and loss have left their indelible marks.
In the aftermath of the events on September 11, 2001, we received a letter about how there has been a tremendous increase in adoptions from the New York area animal shelters. Grieving and frightened people in larger numbers than ever sought the solace that can only be found in the paws and wings of animal companions. Normally wisecracking Jon Stewart on the “Daily Show” opened the first program aired after the national tragedy by saying that he’d brought home a puppy to help him feel better.
As well as many human acts of kindness and courage that inspired us all, Roselle, a yellow Labrador guide dog, who is a little over three years old, showed tremendous grace under fire. She led her blind charge, Mike Hingson down 78 floors of the New York World Trade Center. For one-half hour Roselle guided Mike and a group of employees to the ground floor and then running out of the south tower as it collapsed behind them. Hingson is reported as saying, “She [Roselle] never hesitated. She never panicked.”
We all watched the television and newspaper images of search and rescue and bomb-sniffing dogs. They rummaged through the rubble and alerted their handlers in an attempt to save as many lives as possible. These dogs worked until their paws became bloody and veterinarians on the site administered first aid.
One of the dogs succumbed to smoke inhalation. Firefighters carried this hero out of the ruins on a stretcher and hurried him in an ambulance to an animal hospital where he was treated, released, and ready to return to work.
The Internet was deluged with e-mail letters about people who had to leave pets behind in apartments and feared the animals would starve or become dehydrated. Soon, the authorities allowed these people to retrieve the creatures who meant so much to them.
For years now, as we’ve written this column, newsletter, and books, we’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude for over one thousand stories we’ve received of angel animals among us. The ones who enter our lives on wings or padded feet, or hooves or with fins flapping. You meet angels disguised as animals everyday. But perhaps they only show you their wings when you need desperately to be reminded of heaven and of a loving God.
A Dog with a Message
Geri Hough from Beebe, Arkansas contributed the following story. Part of it was published in our first book.
Geri experienced some severe setbacks in her life. She’d had a child die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and since that tragedy, had lost her faith in God. When Geri and her husband divorced she became even angrier with God over that loss. One day, her stepdaughter visited Geri. She said that Geri’s ex-husband was dying of liver cancer. This news plunged Geri into a terrible depression bordering on despair. But her sense of abandonment was about to be compounded.
Geri had adopted a Saint Bernard named Misty. When the dog was a year old, Geri sent her to instructors for obedience training at their home. The couple left for the weekend, and Misty dug out of her pen, wandering into nearby woods. Although Geri didn’t know it at the time, this happened on the same day that she learned of her ex-husband’s illness.
The trainers thought Misty would return so they waited until the following week to notify Geri that the dog was gone. Because this was hunting season, Geri was worried that Misty would be killed. Her husband took their other dog to the woods to search for Misty. He hoped he’d meet her as she tried to get back home. But Misty was nowhere to be found.
Geri writes, “Losing Misty reopened my unhealed wounds. Now I thought that Misty was going to be one more creature I loved who would be taken away from me. In spite of my anger toward God, each day I prayed for Misty’s return. But I truly didn’t think I’d ever see her again.”
It was now five days since Misty had been gone. Geri’s seven and eight-year-old sons waited outside their house for the school bus. To their surprise and delight a worn out Misty joined them. The dog had not only survived for almost a week but had traveled eight miles through rough terrain, streams, lakes, and woods where she’d never been before, to return home.
“I thanked God, “Geri says, “and realized that this dog had restored my belief in a God who cares about me. She’d dug her way out on the day I’d been so depressed over grieving about my ex-husband and remembering the loss of my child. It was as if she knew I needed her. She’d traveled such a long way to deliver the message that I wasn’t alone or abandoned.”
But Misty’s mission as an angel animal wasn’t finished. When the dog was pregnant and about to give birth to her first litter, Misty did something that confounded Geri. Mother dogs will typically find a private place to nestle and have their pups. But Misty did the opposite. As if she was trying to give Geri the life she’d lost when her own infant son had died, Misty climbed up on top of Geri and settled down on the woman’s abdomen. One-by-one, the dog delivered her litter of puppies right there! Geri says she didn’t dare move but lay on the sofa in awe at the gift Misty seemed to be attempting to give her.
Do angel animals serve as messengers letting you know that you are loved? Has an angel animal given you hope when you were grieving? Is there someone you could comfort as the angel animals among us so often do?
In “Cat-e-Chisms, Feline Answers to Life’s BIG Questions,” which uses cats as models for spirituality, author Bill Zimmerman writes, “Provide tranquility for others with your comforting presence. Don’t hesitate to help them in their time of need.” (Hazel-den, 1997)
Isn’t this what angels do? Even if they’re the furry, fuzzy, or feathery kind.
Allen and Linda Anderson are co-editors of “Angel Animals: Exploring Our Spiritual Connection with Animals” (A Plume Book, 1999) in local and Internet bookstores. Angel Animals plush toys are available at www.incrediblecreatures.com or call (305) 532-3111. The Andersons co-founded the Angel Animals Foundation to increase love and respect for all life — one story at a time. Their website is www.angelanimals.org . Tax-deductible donations and story submissions are gratefully accepted at P.O. Box 26488, Minneapolis, MN 55426. For more information please call (952) 925-3309 or e-mail AngelAnimals@aol.com
Return to the November/December Index page