Thursday, July 08, 2010

Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson

Charleson is a volunteer search-and-rescue worker who is also a dog lover, and after working closely with a team that included some trained dogs she was inspired to adopt a Golden Retriever puppy and train her.

Scent of the Missing is part search-and-rescue memoir, part dog-training memoir and is definitely targeted towards people who love dogs as Charleson does. She's a gifted writer, and her tales of raising the strong-willed Puzzle to become an adult working dog are detailed, vivid and often humorous. If you like dogs and enjoy reading about dog interaction and behaviour, you'll enjoy the chapters where Charleson describes the interaction between her houseful of rescue Pomeranians and the inquisitive Golden puppy (I like dogs well enough, but have never had one so I have to admit I skimmed a lot of these parts, as cute as some of the stories are.) However, if you're looking for exciting action-packed tales of dramatic search-and-rescue operations, you may be disappointed by this book as there are far more tales of long days in the field doing sweep searches that don't turn up anything of interest. Possibly the most intense search that Charleson describes is the long and emotionally draining search for minute pieces of wreckage and human remains after the space shuttle Columbia disaster. Almost all of the searches in this book take place without the beloved Puzzle, who doesn't become certified as a SAR dog until she's over two years old. I hope that Charleson will consider writing a second memoir giving us a glimpse into her teamwork with Puzzle, who shines through every page as a very intelligent dog with a fantastic personality.

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