Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review - Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership With A Search and Rescue Dog




Dogs. They are not only a wonderful comfort as companions and friends, but they are useful to us in a wide variety of ways. They are intelligent and they have superb skills in a diverse range of activities. There are dozens of working, hound and sporting dog breeds that can and do offer society big picture talents.

Over the course of history, several breeds have been used to sniff out everything from bombs and mines in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and assorted other nations. Dogs can smell narcotics and cancer and they can rally their "smelling" talents to find people. Living and dead.

Scent of the Missing is a 285 page must have in your book collection. Susannah Charleson started out assisting in the field with dogs and eventually she was certified to handle dogs in the search and rescue world. Charleson provides a detailed look at her work as a handler with the Dallas canine search and rescue team. It's part storytelling with a large dose of biography, but we get a welcoming visit into the world of the search and rescue front. We travel through the abilities of German Shepherds, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers and an assortment of other breeds that are fully capable of working the field just because they can smell way beyond the limited abilities of human beings.

The dogs involved in search and rescue are entrenched in work that includes everything from digging into tragedies (9/11, the downed Columbia space shuttle, the Oklahoma City bombing) to the now seemingly everyday occurrences (tragic as well) of missing loved ones (adults and children). Whether we explore the horrors of a missing child or the lost Alzheimer's patient it is all tragic. Victories do come with people being found, but unfortunately, many of the searches are not met with a happy ending. Most searches are successful, since almost all victims are eventually found, but not alive.

Charleson shares the exploits of her non-working toy dogs - a series of Pomeranians, but it is her relationship with the Golden Retriever, Puzzle that takes us on the ride worth sharing. The relationship begins at the start of Puzzle's life in the field as a puppy.

This is a stunning portrayal of a partnership that includes a loving personal human/dog relationship and their work life as partners. Dogs are indeed man's best friend and we witness this on every turn of the page.

Charleson was a pilot prior to becoming a SAR (search and rescue) handler. She writes with a warm and inviting delivery. This is a well crafted book with some poetic prose. It's warm and fuzzy (no pun intended) on the one hand, but viscerally in your face with some horrible circumstances (although, there is nothing graphic here and it is completely appropriate reading material for anyone over the age of 14) on the other hand.

There are thousands of unsolved crimes on the record books with law enforcement agencies all across the world. My sister is still haunted by the murders of the Grimes sisters. Barbara and Patricia Grimes were teen-agers on December 28, 1956 when they were brutally murdered after attending an Elvis Presley movie in Chicago. Their bodies were found dumped on German Church Road in Willow Springs, Illinois on January 22, 1957. The police never were able to find the killer or killers; and to this day there isn't a time we drive past that location where my mom and sister don't recall their deaths. We recently went to their grave sites at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in the south suburban area of Chicago. It's still crushing to know their family never had "closure" on the deaths of two young girls who just wanted to hear Elvis sing, Love Me Tender. Their murderer (s) went free. We can only hope that they were caught in the midst of another crime and served their lives out in prison. It is still a mystery, but imagine had they employed search and rescue dogs in the homicide investigation. Barbara and Patricia Grimes wouldn't have been found alive, but they would have been found sooner, but then again maybe they would have been found alive since the Medical Examiner wrote that they were most likely dead only four days at the time that their bodies were found.

TNT produced a pilot for series based on this book, but I have never seen it and I cannot find that it ever aired. Many pilots are shot, but most never see the light of day.

This is an excellent book about a personal relationship, but it is also a deep exploration into the life of a working dog. These dogs are unsung heroes. They have saved lives, literally all over the world and they have sacrificed their lives for their human companions.


We owe these dogs a special salute of praise.
 
Copyright Read On Read Now 2012

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