The latest treat for dog lovers by Goodavage (Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca, 2014, etc.) takes readers into the world of the canines and handlers who protect the president and the White House.
The Secret Service is notoriously closed to journalists, which means that the author was prohibited from revealing much of the information she gathered in her interviews and restricted to giving first names and initials for most of her interviewees. While hardly a hard-hitting investigation of the role of canines in the sometimes controversial agency, her account will satisfy those curious about the lives of working dogs and their people. Goodavage covers a number of such comradeships, weaving them into the story of spunky Hurricane, who under the instructions of handler Marshall M. took down a “fence jumper” at the White House in 2014. Intriguing chapters explore the selection of dogs from a training facility in a small town in Indiana, where the Belgian Malinois, who make up the larger part of the guard, and bomb-sniffing dogs are brought after being raised for a couple of years in Europe, and the work life of the so-called “Friendly Dogs,” unassuming, floppy-eared canines whose handlers cover the streets near the White House seeking out the scent of explosives on individuals. The author has a tendency to go off on tangents, seemingly depending on people with whom she had more extensive interviews: one chapter, for example, delves into the life history of a handler who spent his childhood in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and another examines the veterinary history of a dog subject to heat sickness.
While the book suffers from the fact that the Secret Service is understandably reluctant to reveal any explosives that have been discovered or subjects disarmed under the watch of its canine patrollers, Goodavage’s subjects and their companions are quirky and dedicated enough to engage readers wondering about those dogs on the White House lawn.