By Heddie Wittlin-Leger
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Barnes and Noble
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Heddie is a city girl with a country heart. For over 40 years, she and her husband Ron lived in Missouri on a hobby farm with various companion animals, which included chickens, ducks, geese, guinea pigs, cats, fish, birds, dogs, and horses. Their two daughters were never without chores to do. Heddie considers that part of the growing and learning experiences for children. Children exposed to the outdoors, fresh air, and interactions with animals learn life skills that serve them well into their adult years and throughout their lives. She found her place working with children and animals, through animal-assisted interventions and the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI). Her gifts and talents have been shared with thousands of children at schools, libraries, summer camps, special-needs programs, 4-H, Girl and Boy Scouts, children's cancer wards in hospitals, and a myriad of other activities that involve children, including domestic-violence shelters. Her own Sofa Dog, Hero, was an integral part of their many interactions with all of the children and families who have been touched by their simple gifts of time and caring. Her passion for helping others understand canine and animal behavior never ceases. As a Professional Humane Educator, her humane education classes are in high demand. Heddie's household remains one of multiple species that include two dogs, a rescued racehorse, two mini horses, a fish that loves to be hand-fed, and a cat and bird that are friends and playmates. Her husband, Ron, agrees that animals add a zest to life that he didn't expect. Her greatest blessing is spending time with her grandchildren exploring everything about life from their perspectives. Their joy is infectious and their laughter contagious. We each have a bit of our childhood past in us, and grandchildren "re-awaken" that child within.
Sofa Dog starts with a history of Sofa Dog. The dog comes to comfort children in duress. Children “can hear his breathing and the padding of his huge paws.” Most adults have never heard him. “Sofa Dog invites [children] to lean on him, sit with him, and relax for a moment to release their fears.” In the first crisis in Sofa Dog’s story, an earthquake toppled buildings, broke water mains, broke roads and highways, and created cracks in the ground. Sofa Dog appeared and released the child in duress to slumber land.
In the second scenario, a tornado bore down on towns, cities, and farms. It splintered trees, homes, and buildings into toothpicks. It threw cars like children’s toys. It left a blanket of debris. Sofa Dog appeared and offered the child “solace and safety in the midst of chaos.” In the third scenario, the child was asleep in bed. He heard gunshots and could see light through the hole in his window and the second hole in his wall. Sofa Dog appeared and filled him “with a sense of calm and peace.”
In the fourth and final scenario, the child has been placed with a foster family because her mother had died and her dad was in the military. Via a phone call, her foster mother found out her dad was MIA. The girl missed him with all her heart and was scared and lonely. Though her foster parents were nice, they weren’t her dad. Her foster family couldn’t make her sadness stop like her dad could. Sofa Dog appeared and surrounded her with soft, warm comfort. She knew immediately it was Sofa Dog, because she’d heard about him. Her tears gushed as she buried her face into his fur.
Sofa Dog is a compelling, heartwarming, hopeful story about imaginary dogs that have only appeared to children coming out of disasters. On every page, readers will find themselves drawn to the resounding themes of survival no matter what tragedies happen in our lives and Sofa Dog having provided children with much-needed calm, peace, solace, and assurance.
is an imprint of Paws and Claws Publishing, LLC.
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