Journalist and author Jennifer Skiff knows they're out there — stories of dogs that saved people from despair, dogs with compassion, dogs that taught their human something profound.
And with her new book, "The Divinity of Dogs," she wants to share those stories with the world.
"I'm an animal freak. It's what I do; it's my passion," said Skiff, who divides her time between Mount Desert Island and Australia. "I truly believe I am here to help the voiceless souls."
A graduate of Hebron Academy, Skiff received a degree in broadcast journalism from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and worked as a reporter for various TV stations, including WABI in Bangor. She later worked as an international correspondent and producer for CNN. In 2008 she published her first book, "God Stories: Inspiring Encounters with the Divine," which featured 138 stories of real-life encounters with the divine.
But as much as she enjoyed her work, animals — particularly dogs — were always important in her life.
"For me, dogs have always been there when people haven't," Skiff said.
While traveling the world as a journalist, Skiff picked up and rescued dogs off the streets in Australia, the United States, Puerto Rico and Turkey. She produced educational programming about animals and the environment. She helped build the first bear sanctuary in Laos. She served on the boards of multiple animal groups, including national rescue group Pilots 'N Paws and the SPCA in Hancock County. And she is the proud parent of 14-year-old CousCous, a Maltese-Pomeranian mix, and ChickPea, a one-eyed, rescued shih tzu.
"When (ChickPea) sits down next to you, plops down, and gives you love, it's a real gift," Skiff said.
So when her agent suggested a second book related to "God Stories" but different, Skiff jumped at the chance to tell spiritual stories about dogs. This summer, Simon & Schuster bought the rights to "The Divinity of Dogs: A Collection of Spiritually Enlightening Canine Interventions."
Each chapter will feature one of Skiff's own stories, such as encountering the spirit of her beloved terrier-poodle mix soon after he died. Each chapter will also include stories that Skiff has collected from others.
"A lot of people are afraid to tell other people just how much they love their dog and just how close they are," she said. "Books like this, when they hear other people's stories, it confirms what they already know. Many people believe a dog is a gift from the divine."
Skiff is looking for a couple of hundred true stories of love, compassion, loyalty, joy and enlightenment related to dogs. One hundred will be chosen for the book.
Stories can be submitted through www.divinityofdogs.com. For people without e-mail or Internet access, a friend may provide contact information online and Skiff will provide a mailing address to submit a story.
Once they are chosen, Skiff will contact the people who submitted the stories to conduct an interview. She will write and edit all the stories included in the book.
The book is slated for release in the summer of 2012.
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