How adopting a German shepherd puppy turned out to be life-changing for Warren (Science Journalism/North Carolina State Univ.).
Having hoped that her new puppy would become a replacement for the companionship of a recently deceased dog, she was dismayed by the aggressive, rambunctious new addition, Solo, who could turn into an uncontrollable, snarling, biting “Tasmanian devil.” After two months, even though she was at her wits' end, she didn't want to give up on the puppy, who, despite it all, was “funny and charming” and clearly very intelligent. Warren appealed for help from the trainer who had worked with Solo's predecessor. The trainer suggested that he had the makings of a cadaver dog, a working dog used to locate missing people presumed dead. His aggression could be channeled by the demands of the search and the rewards of success. For Warren, the task of training and handling became the “rare perfection of that human and canine partnership…[which entailed]...the intense physical and mental challenge of stripping a search to its essential elements.” Warren chronicles how she and Solo each learned their jobs so that they could become effective volunteer members of criminal investigations. She had to teach him to perfect his ability to assess odors but also to deal with electric fences, swim rivers and push through undergrowth while ignoring distractions. Her responsibility was to guide Solo, as he alerted her to being in the vicinity of a target, by judging the effects of intangibles such as wind and temperature. She also had to train herself to tolerate gruesome crime scenes and dangerous environments while maintaining Solo's enthusiasm for the chase.
Warren writes with verve and provides rare insight into our working partnership with canines.