No fan of even the calmest swimming pool, Andy Allen '00 said he never imagined he would jump into a flooded creek flowing like a whitewater mountain river to save a person, much less a dog.
Yet when Allen's best friend Norman followed a soggy stick into a rushing creek during the tragic Iowa floods of 2008, the Cedar Rapids kindergarten teacher didn't have a second's pause.
"I didn't really hesitate," Allen said. "I just jumped in and I was very, very, very, very lucky. I lost my glasses and my wallet, but I saved my dog. So I guess it turned out all right."
Three years later, it has turned out more than all right.
Allen has transformed that eventful walk and unplanned swim into "Stormin' Norman: The Soggy Doggy," a self-published, 22-page children's book that serves as both a cautionary tale about the dangers of fast-moving water and a parable about the strength of friendship.
Specifically between man and a man's best friend.
The adventure in the flooded creek marked the second time Allen rescued Norm, a 5-year-old, half-lab, half-boxer. While living and teaching in Arizona in 2007, the former SAU psychology major saw a sign in a faculty lounge advertising a "free dog" that an older couple otherwise would have had to send to a shelter.
He bonded immediately with Norm, who Allen described as "a goof" and a "70-pound lap dog" with an even bigger heart.
Since moving back to Iowa, Allen has added a wife, Mary, plus two cats and a second dog, The latter, Simon, is a terrier/shepherd mix about half Norm's size, but he has claimed Alpha status over the lovable lunk .
Norm , however, is becoming an effective teaching tool.
"The Soggy Doggy," self-published in November via BeaverPondPress of Minnesota, may be just the start of a series of children's books centered around Norman. Allen currently is completing a second book, "Stormin' Norman: Norm and the Bully Dog," that he hopes to publish next year.
Writing children's books wasn't something Allen considered while studying psychology and theatre at SAU. The plan hatched from his practice of regularly reading to his kindergartners and crystallized while he was attending a writing workshop some months after his unanticipated swim.
His traumatic adventure with Norm seemed a good place to start.
Allen's distaste for jumping into water has increased, by the way, since his bold rescue. Norman, meanwhile, scarcely was fazed by his "Soggy Doggy" dip.
"I was sitting there, trying to catch my breath and thanking God I didn't get washed away," said Allen, who was washed 300 yards downstream before he got a grip on the dog and was able to push him to a bank. "Norm got out the water, shook himself off and he was ready to play."
"Stormin' Norman: The Soggy Doggy" can be purchased in the St. Ambrose Bookstore and online at bookhousefulfillment.com.
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