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Beyond Blue

God Spelled Backwards Is Dog: Heavenly Canine Companions

Since I have two very sweet lab-chow mutts at home—one of which was a very important companion in the years I was severely depressed–I was delighted to see that angel expert Joan Wester Anderson had dedicated her next volume to dogs! Anderson’s book, “Angelic Tails: True Stories of Heavenly Canine Companions,” is a heart-warming collection of heroic stories of dogs. I wanted to interview Joan a little more on the topic, because I know so many of you have furry best friends, as well.


1. I’m curious, Joan, do you think it’s a coincidence that GOD spelled backwards is DOG?

Joan: While researching, I came across the legend about Adam in the Garden of Eden. God was allowing Adam to name all the animals, trees, etc… as it says in Scripture, but (here’s the legend part) there was a small creature following God and Adam through the Garden and as they got to the end, the creature got their attention. “You have run out of names,” he pointed out. “There’s not one left for me.”

God looked down and smiled at the little animal. “I have saved the best for last,” he explained. “I’ve turned my own name back to front, and called you dog.” Sweet, yes?


2. What was the inspiration for an angel-dog book?

Joan: Well, the irony of me writing a book about dogs is that I have never owned a dog. Between allergies, no fences and other excuses, my mother never okayed a pet, and when I became a mom I followed suit. I ended up becoming a writer and eventually wrote a series of books on angels and how they work in our lives. The first book, Where Angels Walk, ended up on the New York Times best-seller list for a year, and is frequently credited with starting a great big angel revival in the 90’s. (Which is still going on.)


One day my editor at Loyola Press pointed out that in each of my angel books, there was a story about a dog. Why not a whole book about canine companions? They could be real dogs inspired by heaven to do something heroic or loving.. Or in some cases (as in the earlier angel books), they could be part of a miracle, a spirit dog, there and not there.

I was hesitant. Angels as dogs? It sounded a little sacrilegious. But I kept thinking about it, and realized that I was putting limits on the Creator. If God is the God of everything, then why wouldn’t He use a dog—if it seemed appropriate—to help someone in a time of need?

So I’m not actually saying that dogs are angels. But when they act like angels, perhaps we ought to pay attention to what God may be telling us through them.


3. In your collection of stories, was there one central theme that ran through them?

Joan: I was impressed with how much dogs love us. It doesn’t seem to matter how we treat them, or whether or not we deserve their loyalty. They live completely in the moment, and as long as we are with them, they are content. Kind of sounds like an angel, doesn’t it?

4. What surprised you most after reading so many accounts of heavenly dogs?

Joan: When I began talking to groups about angels, I loved telling them that the chances were pretty good that they had “met” an angel already, but just hadn’t noticed. I fully believe this, but it was a hard sell at first because people hadn’t been encouraged to develop the mystical side of themselves, and allow for the possibility. Gradually I noticed that audiences were becoming more receptive, and today almost 80 percent of Americans believe in angels.


So you would think I could easily transfer my belief in angels over to a belief in heavenly dogs, but I didn’t. At first, as mentioned, it felt irreverent, as if we were straying into strange territory (do dogs go to heaven? Do they have souls, etc). But I had a book contract and a deadline, and as I kept researching, I was very surprised to discover how MANY stories there were, each with its own little twists that made it unique. Far from becoming repetitious because there were only a few types of dog stories available, this topic was almost infinite. Just like the angels in the earlier books, God’s creation is endless and unlimited.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Lisa

    This was a great interview! There were so many times when I felt alone and depressed and the only one that seemed to be there for me was my dog. I truly believe they are angels and we could learn a lot modeling our actions after theirs.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Razz2

    Are our dogs “heavenly companions”? There are for me. I had just passed my first year of recovery mark when my beloved dog “Maddy” a Border Collie passes away, suddenly and unexpectedly. My husband was out of town at the time and so I felt the devastation more acutely than if I had had some physical support then. Maddy was a shy timid girl who became my shadow. Every where I went she went and watched over me many, many times when I was passed out from drinking too much or wretched with deep dark thoughts from depression. She had been a constant in my life when nothing else made sense. The loss was profound. Needless to say my husband was shocked that I was already looking at a replacement dog within a couple of days. What he didn’t understand at the time was how much I had come to depend on the comfort of a being who delighted in my company no matter what kind of mood I was in. I now own a Border Terrier called Scooter. Like any terrier he’s hyper but also funny. His antics can always make me laugh. (we also have an elderly Irish Wolfhound X who is a huge part of our family).

    Angels among us… without a doubt. My family has experienced too many small “miracles” to think otherwise.


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary Anne Thompson


    I definitely believe that our animals, ALL animals are God sent! I have a dog and cat that have been with me since 1994 and I acquired the cat during Hurricane Rita in 95. A cpl took us into their home in Austin when we fled Houston. After being there for a few days when we were ready to return home the man said “take that kitty with you, she has been following u around since u got here”. She has become my cuddle kitty. When I need a hug she is always around 😉
    My dog too, when I have been sad or sick they always stick close to me. My dogs licks the tears from my face when I cry. YES they are better to me than a lot of 2 leggeds walking the Earth.
    Thanks for recognizing our 4 legged friends/Angels

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nancy

    I have a miniature schnauzer that has been such a life-saver for me. I have been able to experience joy again in my struggle with depression. When my doctor asked me what I thought made the difference in my mood at my last visit, I told him, “getting a dog.” She’s my little angel of joy.

  • MsMolly

    I believe that my dogs are angels a gift from GOD.I have 3 doberman’s who are very aware of my feelings.I have bi-polar,severe depression(what ever that means)PTSD,point being I have a number of emotions and my dogs are aware.of them which has taught me to become aware.when I am sad or pull inside of my-self one or all will come up to me and nudge me to pet them.I will start out petting them fast,my breathing will be shallow and before I used to know it my hand has slowed and my breathing has deepened.there are so many ways the dogs in my life have literally saved my life.the unconditional love I receive is the love I have always searched for.I don’t understand why people can not love this way.I believe dogs are love as GOD loves us.I am thankful to GOD for the angels he has given us.I believe this will make sense even though my righting may not.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Christina W

    Excellent interview! There is NO doubt animals play an important role in our lives – for me personally they play more of a role and my love and trust for them is greater than most of the people I know. We seem to think we are the only ones saving them – from shelters etc – when it’s they who really rescue us.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Pam McC

    Dogs as angels? Absolutely … Lennox, my younger daughter’s boxer, arrived in our lives just as clinical depression hit me, five years ago. I used to ‘borrow’ him and, undoubtedly, his unconditional love and devotion got me through my lowest days. We can only learn and benefit from our ‘friends for life’.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Brad Breisch

    I also believe that dogs are heaven sent and that they do have a special place “across the rainbow bridge” in heaven. To think that our dogs, who love us unconditionally, who are always happy to see us, and who always seem to know when we just need a friend to curl up in our laps; do not have a place reserved by God is just inconceavable. Why would God let animals who clearly do His work here on earth be forgotten and discarded when their work is done and they are called home. I look forward to the day when all the pets I have ever had the priviledge to know as my personal companions, come running across the rainbow bridge to greet me when I arrive, just as they had always done in life. The Lords own words confirm this when he said that anyone who does my work or suffers for doing my work, will be rewarded in heaven. I take some consolation in that when I think of all the animals who are neglected or abused. All they wanted to do was love us, and isn’t that what God also wants.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment joshs”dad”

    lost my 19 year old son joshua 6 years ago mc accident lost my dog jazz shortly there after went into depression then started looking for new companion in the shelters found a large choc lab was 8 months old name joshua’s hersheybar by the breeder got papers from shelter with the dog to prove it was no fluke bruno is 130 lb and got him a companion a boxer/bullmastiff another rescue dog stella and they keep me and my family togeather during trying times a large donation was made to the northeast animal shelter in my sons memory

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Linda

    I truly believe dogs go to heaven. Our dog Jack was truly an angel. He lived with us for 15 years. When he passed away I was so depressed. Our two daughters were in College and Jack was a faithful companion. I cried myself to sleep every night missing Jack. One night I had a very vivid dream. My mom-in-law, who had passed away 7 years earlier and loved Jack also was in my dream. She was walking in Heaven and Jack was frolicking beside her and she said,” Don’t worry, I am taking very good care of Jack and he is happy”. This gave me peace.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Anabel

    I have a lab chow mutt dog “Bear” is his name. I rescued him from an animal shelter when he was just 6 weeks old. We were looking for a puppy for my daughter for her 13th birthday.I believe it was meant for us to have “Bear” he was the last of the litter. We were all so very excited to have found this little puppy and wanted to take him home, but we had to wait till he was 9 weeks to adopt. We waited took him home and in 90 days it was official “Bear”stayed to live with us.Our lives is better in alot of ways if it wasn’t for our dog I think I would have not made it this far raising my daughter in the teenage years and now I’m a grandmother of two grandkids. Thank God for “Bear” our angel.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Janet Abate

    I am battleing cancer and both my dogs are their for me.They give me great comfort everyday. Amen to dogs love them.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jackie T.

    I know dogs are angels. I was in a severe state of depression. My aunt died in 1992 of emphysema and my mom died of esophageal cancer in 1993. I could barely crawl out of bed. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. My neighbers were moving and they gave their dog “Tara” to me. She was a Rottweiler/Lab mix. She was timid at first but then she really warmed up to me. She loved playing ball and going for rides in the car. She would sit up and ride in the car like a person. Then she would snuggle against me and give me wet doggie kisses all over my face. Tara gave me a reason to get up in the morning. I had to move cross country and I had to give Tara up to a good home. But I will never forget her. She got me through some very rough times. I don’t know if she is still alive today but I love you baby and always will my sweet girl.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Brenda

    I was assaulted from behind while teaching by a 17 year old student who has many issues. I’d never met him before. It was my second teaching job, but I was in the 90 day probationary period. I was out on comp and was terminated and blamed for this, which ruined my career and future prospects of any employment, as they posted my termination on the web as part of the public document school board minutes. With a back injury that comp said was not there and this, it was just too much! To say I was depressed is an understatement! Henry, my golden/border collie mix was there through it all. At night, I would lie awake and try to make sense of it all. Cry and cry, try and try, I could never find a way to accept that I would be like this…broken in more ways than I can count. Henry would come to me and lick my tears and curl up close to me. I’d pet him and hug him. This went on for four years. Each day just as hard as the next and only Henry was there to understand what I was dealing with. Everyone else in my life said, get over it. For me it was also a sense of shame, as I hold two post graduate degrees and recieve food stamps from the state. Finally, I got some medical help with our credit card, then I lost the 70+ pounds I put on from being unable to move and hired a lawyer, who died from cancer and missed dates, so the law suit failed as well. It does not matter anymore, I have Henry. He has made me see that I do not need to have a great job and paycheck to matter. I am certain there are many people who think different. I just potter around with him and live. Do I have a nice car? No. But I can walk again! Will I die on the welfare? probably….Will it matter if I have a dog with me….YES! Dogs make life bearable and give so much. Henry is my angle! Thank you G~d for this beautiful gift….my own personal angle….Henry!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Donna

    I truly believe that dogs are sent to us from God. They have so many of His attributes!! Think about it!! It gives me hope as an animal rescuer to know that the many that are destroyed every day walk with Him when their life here is through! After all, His word says..He even knows when a sparrow falls….He cares about all of His creation, why would they not go back to Him when their lives are done!! I look forward to seeing them all one day!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Annie D

    I am a pet lover and I just adore dogs. Yea, they are indeed sweet angels and I do call my doggies angles as a pet name. I have 3 adult labs currently and they just so cute, loving, naughty, darlings etc. etc. I just love them too much. They are my babies, stress reliever, great companions, my guardian, faithful friends. I had almost many different types of pets from the age of 1 around me. God knew very well how the animals would be a wonderful companion for us humans. Thanks be to God for His best animal-friend Dog to us.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Do Wei

    Why must humans try to impose a supernatural explanation for something so pure as the love that a dog has for his master. Don’t try to explain it because none of us are worthy of such devotion. Just enjoy it.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment stanley jones

    Strange how she mixes scripture with legend(lies).The word dog origin is unknown.most likely it originated from satan.The word God was used before this word dog slipped into the english language.The real mystery is how Christians let this word thrive in it’s language.It should be banned since know one can explain it’s origin. Message!

  • Deirdre

    I know that I believe in Goodness due to Nature and especially dogs. People do not inspire me for the mostpart. My Dogs are more intelligent than any of the humans I have met.

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