Did you know that “dogs can sniff out cancer—in a test tube or in a person—the black lab who sniffs out the poop of orca whales, the poodle who brought a little girl out of a coma…my only problem was that there were far more stories I wanted to use than the space I had!”
Author Lisa Rogak has always loved animals, but she had no way of knowing that it would lead her to write multiple books on the subject! With a new book arriving in the fall of 2013, Rogak shared, “I’m excited about my next book, which I just wrapped up. One Big Happy Family: Heartwarming Stories of Animals Caring for One Another is a photo-heavy book of inspirational stories along the lines of unlikely friendships, only instead of friendships between different species of animals; it deals with adult animals that care for babies of a different species.”
Lisa Rogak is also the author of Dogs of Courage: The Heroism and Heart of Working Dogs Around the World. Dogs of Courage shares the heartwarming stories of military dogs, search and rescue teams and canines who are forever devoted to their humans. Rogak has also written Dogs of War: The Courage, Love, and Loyalty of Military Working Dogs. “I’m a dog person now” Rogak shared, since publishing Dogs of Courage. Rogak explained that writing both animal books has “made me understand dogs better, as well as the way they operate. In a previous life I was a crazy cat lady, but today I am a confirmed dog person.”
“All animals—including humans—have innate instincts that allow them to perform courageous acts, or at least acts that are viewed by humans as courageous. The animals don’t necessarily think of themselves as being courageous and it’s not why they do it, but their gut propels them forward before their brain can rationalize it…” Rogak shared.
We can learn a lot from the animals. “They remind us not to sweat the small stuff, or the big stuff for that matter.” In her book Dogs of Courage, Rogak shares:
“Everybody has to deal with their own mortality. Dogs make us do that,” said Larry Madrid, an animal trainer for movies including Marley & Me. “They bring so much pleasure to your life, but you look back at the great dogs you’ve had, the great times, and realize, ‘Geez, they only live about 10 years.’ So make the most of those years. Dogs do.”
Growing up with a love for reading, Rogak began her writing career in 1981 and has now blessed us with more than 40 books on a wide variety of interesting topics from Steven Colbert to Shel Silverstein. Rogak is a New York Times bestselling author. She has appeared on Oprah and her works have been discussed in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.
Lisa Rogak was kind enough to share a passage from her book:
Laura Berton-Botfeld didn’t know that what was in store when she and her apricot standard poodle named Apollo started volunteering as a therapy dog team at UCLA Medical Center. She thought she and her canine partner would be able to bring some small dose of cheer to people staying at the hospital, but she couldn’t predict that Apollo would actually prove to be the pivotal point in steering a little girl’s recovery.
One day after they had been volunteering for several months, they were in the wing of the Mattel Children’s Hospital, when a man walked directly towards them. Something in his approach was a bit stressed and concerned. He pointed at Apollo and asked if he was a therapy dog. Laura replied that indeed he was, and the man requested their services, explaining that his 10-year-old daughter was in the ICU.
Laura hesitated; were dogs allowed in the wing with expensive medical equipment, not to mention the delicate conditions of most of the patients? She asked a doctor nearby if it was okay – meanwhile the father seemed impatient for her to follow along – and once the physician gave his blessing, they gingerly entered the room.
Once inside the darkened room filled with tubes and equipment and monitors that buzzed and beeped, she and Apollo approached the bed. The father explained that the little girl had bacterial meningitis and had been in a coma for over two weeks and that the doctors weren’t holding out much hope.
As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Berton-Botfeld saw that the girl’s eyes were open but unseeing, staring at nothing. “Seeing her like that was more than I had anticipated, and I didn’t know if I could face this situation,” she said. “But I looked at my dog, brave and valiant as ever, and he gave me a burst of strength.”
Apollo approached the bed and gave a gentle sniff. The little girl’s father placed his daughter’s hand on the dog’s head while he whispered repeatedly, “There’s a dog named Apollo here.”
Suddenly, the energy in the room changed and Laura saw Apollo do something he’d never done before. “Apollo seemed to stare into the deep abyss of her beautiful but blank blue eyes,” she remembered. “His gaze was so intense, that I was afraid he might lick her face, and I had to pull him away. But for a moment, there was definitely some strange sort of connection between the two.”
“It was the weirdest thing,” she continued. “[The girl’s] eyes seemed to just lock onto Apollo’s, and the dog’s gaze was so intense I thought he was going to kiss her—something therapy dogs are trained not to do.”
Apollo stared at the girl for about 20 minutes while the adults looked on. But the little girl didn’t respond; her big blue eyes continued unseeing. After awhile, the therapy team left the room to visit other patients, but Laura kept thinking of how her dog reacted in the presence of the comatose girl.
About an hour after they left her room, Laura’s cellphone rang. Jack Barron, the director of UCLA’s volunteer animal-therapy team, was on the other end with shocking news.
“He said, ‘Sophia just woke up,’” recalls Laura. “‘And her first words were, “Where’s Apollo?” How fast can you get back here?’”
A month later, the little girl was back at home. Laura spoke with her on the phone. “She told me that Apollo was the only memory she had from her coma experience. All she remembered was being surprised to see a dog’s face right in front of hers, and it made her want to laugh but no sounds would come out. Her next memory was of waking up.”
To read more about Rogak's upcoming book, One Big Happy Family: Heartwarming Stories of Animals Caring for One Another, visit her new Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/pages/One-Big-Happy-Family/323038711135309
Have you read one of Lisa’s books? Share your comments/feedback here!