DOCTOR DOGS by Maria Goodavage


How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine
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Dogs as doctors? Yes—psychiatrists, diagnosticians, even healers, as journalist Goodavage (Secret Service Dogs: The Heroes Who Protect the President of the United States, 2016, etc.) writes in her latest canine tribute.

It’s long been observed that a dog is a human’s best friend, helpful in all sorts of situations, from sniffing out skiers buried in avalanches to interdicting illegal shipments of drugs and explosives. In this anecdotally driven book of reportage, the author allows that other animals have better senses of smell than dogs, but few have the discipline to combine their olfactory talents with the patience and alertness that allow them to perform tasks intimately connected to human health. In recent years, dogs have been trained to detect when a person suffering from diabetes might be headed for a blood-sugar crash or when someone with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome might be about to faint. As Goodavage writes in the latter instance, one woman’s wheelchair “collects dust most weeks because [her dog] can give her warning a few minutes ahead of her syncope, allowing her enough time to get into a safe spot.” Other dogs have been trained to detect the presence of cancers, the onset of Parkinson’s and other motor disorders, and a host of other ailments. Goodavage imagines a time when technology will allow dogs to “speak” with voice alerts announcing that their charges are in need of attention, as the dog then “leads you to someone who’s having a severe allergic reaction, a seizure, or other medical emergency." The book is overlong, with too many episodes adding up to the same conclusion—namely, that dogs can do wondrous things to improve our lives and health. Still, if Queen Elizabeth II, attending a demonstration of medical detection dogs, was moved to wonder whether dogs might be stationed at airports to find malaria victims, the author’s narrative might inspire thoughts of other applications. Fans of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’ Hidden Lives of Dogs and similar books will want to have a look.

A somewhat padded text that will nonetheless find plenty of readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5247-4304-8
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2019

Kirkus Interview
Maria Goodavage
October 24, 2016

Wherever the president goes, there will be dogs. They’ll be there no matter what the country or state. They’ll be there regardless of the political climate, the danger level, the weather, or the hour. Maria Goodavage’s new book Secret Service Dogs immerses readers in the heart of this elite world of canine teams who protect first families, popes, and presidential candidates: the selection of dogs and handlers, their year-round training, their missions around the world, and, most important, the bond—the glue that holds the teams together and can mean the difference between finding bombs and terrorists or letting them slip by. Secret Service Dogs celebrates the Secret Service’s most unforgettable canine heroes. It is a must-read for fans of Maria Goodavage, anyone who wants a rare inside view of the United States Secret Service, or just loves dogs. “Goodavage’s subjects and their companions are quirky and dedicated enough to engage readers wondering about those dogs on the White House lawn,” our reviewer writes. View video >


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