SCENT OF THE MISSING by Susannah Charleson


Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog
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The unique dynamic between man and “man’s best friend” is passionately explored by a search-and-rescue dog handler.

Dallas-area Rescue K9 Unit volunteer Charleson shares memories, information and anecdotes, each one representative of a stage in the progression of her police work. In the opening chapters, the author, who had been training for three consecutive years with a local search-and-rescue (SAR) team, trails alongside rescue dogs and their able handlers in cases like the desperate search for a missing child or rummaging through the debris from the disintegrated space shuttle Columbia. The author’s years of experience with the unit soon qualified her to “train and run beside a search dog.” She details her history as a flight instructor introduced to the rescue profession by circumstance and the bittersweet dissolution of her marriage. Soon after her qualification, Charleson accompanied her dog-in-training Puzzle, a bouncy Golden Retriever puppy, on an airline flight, much to the delight of passengers and crew alike. Puzzle’s breed, she notes, is notorious among dog-rescue circles for their “drive, stability, commitment to working with a human, congeniality, and nose.” As Puzzle matured, he began interacting well with the author’s own assortment of pets, but proved somewhat of a challenge at home. However, his intensive rescue training eventually calmed him down. The honing of supreme nose-driven skills, trailing and tracking capability, rappelling from heights, water and fire rescues and human-remains detection are all key abilities for Puzzle, yet Charleson also had to train herself with equal determination. While the common threads of canine companionship and humane compassion run consistently through the book, the author wisely grounds her journey in reality, writing that SAR work is serious business and “not a hobby or a Sunday pastime.”

An inspiring collection of rescue tales ideal for dog lovers and armchair detectives.

Pub Date: April 14th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-547-15244-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2010


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