Monday, November 29, 2010

Scent of the Missing

by Susannah Charleson

This is the enthralling story of a woman who brings a bright and rambunctious puppy into her life to become a search and rescue dog.

There is something refreshing about reading nonfiction when the writer knows her subject, believes in it, and lives it. When that's the case, the passion and knowledge come out through the pages and draw you in.  Ms. Charleson is one of those writers.  Not only that, but she has a gift for structure in writing.  She sets the scene, develops it at her own pace, and creates a desire to read more. 

During the first few chapters, we learn about search and rescue teams and get a rare view of that world through her experiences as a supporting member of a team.  The remarkable work of a canine search and rescue team takes center stage, and the author's own decision to "adopt" and train a dog (not a small undertaking) emerges naturally from there.  We are then privy to the adorable, fun and challenging world of raising Puzzle, her golden retriever, from ungainly puppy to fully certified and successful search-and-rescue dog.

I happened across a review of this book which faulted the author for a supposed lack of direction and inclusion of some personal (allegedly extraneous) details...but to the contrary, I found the author's own story nearly as compelling, and certainly quite relevant to the story of Puzzle the dog.  In fact, I was anxious to learn the details which were eventually revealed about the author to make the story complete.  If compelled to point out a negative of the book, my only critique would be that early on, I did not "catch" each of the mature search dogs' names and breeds, and found myself searching back through the pages to fully identify those dogs when later referred to by single names.  (But perhaps to the author's credit, I actually wanted to know which dog she referred to as opposed to not sensing any connection there.)

Overall, the details about training and partnering with a search and rescue dog fascinated me, the sometimes hilarious tales of puppy training kept me smiling and laughing, and the poignant tales of searches gained my attention and sympathy throughout.  I also felt her keen understanding of and insight into the dog's world as she described the canines' interaction with one another and their work together. 

Ms. Charleson's first book balances all of these emotions and more, as well as showing her depth of caring and ability to impart knowledge about search and rescue dogs to her readers.  She is clearly an ally of the craft of search and rescue canine training, and one they are fortunate to have.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Scent of the Missing" and recommend it for not only dog lovers but for anyone who loves a good story.
I love, so here's the link to the book on their page if you're interested in buying it.

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