Author searches for tales of divine dogs

Posted July 11, 2010, at 6:15 p.m.

Maine native Jennifer Skiff is looking for a few good dog stories — shaggy or not.

The author, who lives part of the year in Somesville, is gathering canine tales for a book, “The Divinity of Dogs: A Collection of Spiritually Enlightening Canine Interventions.”

“The book is about people’s moments of enlightenment with dogs,” she said in a press release issued Tuesday. “It’s about that moment you knew that there was more to your dog than being ‘just’ a dog — that moment your dog taught you something very special about life.”

The new book, scheduled to be published in 2012, grew out of Skiff’s experience while collecting stories for her first book, “God Stories: Inspiring Encounters with the Divine,” published in 2008. Maine residents submitted 10 of the 100 stories included in that book.

While editing that book, she received many submissions that included stories about enlightening experiences people had with their dogs. Once Skiff, 48, thought about it, she realized her own dogs had taught her how to be a better person.

“I am one of the people who have received the gift of emotional healing from a dog,” Skiff wrote in her book proposal. “When I was 7 years old, a retriever named Sally was my best friend, confidante, and constant companion. She enthusiastically watched as I danced and sang along to David Cassidy records and rejoiced in our walks along the rocky coastline of Maine. We lived a happy life.

“A few years later, my parents’ marriage ended and I moved into a house with a cruel and inhumane stepfather,” Skiff continued. “My world rocked as I became a victim and began a fearful existence. My only constant was Sally. I was no longer permitted to sleep with her but when I could, I’d sneak outdoors to the kennel and lay with her on the concrete where all was warm, loving and safe.”

Some of the stories the writer has gathered so far include: a 79-year-old man whose Australian shepherd pounced on his chest with its paws so many times that his heart started again; a woman whose husky annoyingly licked and nudged her owner’s knee apparently predicting a cancerous growth in that spot; and a 7-year-old boy whose family dog dragged him up a hill by his shirt collar as a tsunami hit his home.

Skiff has set up a website for submissions at www.divinityofdogs.com. She urges people who have stories about dogs that have been healers, educators, protectors and offered divine love not to be concerned about whether they are accomplished writers or not.

“You don’t have to be an experienced writer to tell your story,” Skiff said. “A series of questions at the site help you tell the story. After you submit the story you will be interviewed. Your story will then be composed and edited to fit the book’s format.”

She also encouraged people to submit pictures of themselves and their dogs.

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