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Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson (Book Review 2010-116)

Product Description

In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Susannah Charleson clipped a photo from the newspaper: an exhausted canine handler, face buried in the fur of his search-and-rescue dog. A dog lover and pilot with search experience herself, Susannah was so moved by the image that she decided to volunteer with a local canine team and soon discovered firsthand the long hours, nonexistent pay, and often heart-wrenching results they face. Still she felt the call, and once she qualified to train a dog of her own, she adopted Puzzle, a strong, bright Golden Retriever puppy who exhibited unique aptitudes as a working dog but who was less interested in the role of compliant house pet. Puzzle’s willfulness and high drive, both assets in the field, challenged even Susannah, who had raised dogs for years. Scent of the Missing is the story of Susannah and Puzzle’s adventures together and of the close relationship they forge as they search for the lost—a teen gone missing, an Alzheimer’s patient wandering in the cold, signs of the crew amid the debris of the space shuttle Columbia disaster. From the earliest air-scent lessons to her final mastery of whole-body dialog, Puzzle emerges as a fully collaborative partner in a noble enterprise that unfolds across the forests, plains, and cityscapes of the Southwest. Along the way Susannah and Puzzle learn to read the clues in the field, and in each other, to accomplish together the critical work neither could do alone and to unravel the mystery of the human/canine bond.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Susannah Charleson works as a handler with her partner, a Golden Retriever named Puzzle, for the Metro Area Rescue K9 unit in Dallas, Texas, an elite volunteer canine Search and Rescue team responding to local, state, and national search and recovery cases. She also serves as the team's Public Information Officer and gives lectures across the country about SAR. A flight instructor who previously flew disaster searches, Susannah is also an experienced television and radio broadcaster. She and Puzzle share their home with six other dogs, four cats, and a fish named Sound Bite. 

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547152442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547152448


This is the first book about a dog that hasn't made me cry and I get teary while reading most dog books. This is a fearless look at life and what happens when you decide to help other people.  Susannah Charleston doesn't mention how she really earns a living and pays for all that dog food, but you get the feeling that she would scrub floors to keep her rescue dogs well fed and in good health.  Yes, she has a search and rescue dog, as well as several cute little Poms that she has taken in as well.  The story mostly centers around her Golden Retriever Puzzle and what it took to be a certified search and rescue (SAR) dog.   The training seems much more grueling for the human part of this team rather than the dog.

This book is so uplifting and tells such a good story about the goodness of people in general, that someone would make the time and take the effort just to help others.  I can tell that the training helped the author overcome her own difficulties as well by creating this much commendable service in her life.  I just finished A Dog's Purpose by Bruce Cameron which is a fictional account of SAR from a dog's point of view and it appears that both the human and dog are worthy of our praise.  This book is a real must for dog and memoir fans. 

1 comment:

  1. I want to get a copy of this one. I think it would be really interesting. I read a book about SAR training that talked about wind speed and direction and location and there is so much involved.
    I think reading of Susannah and Puzzle's experiences would be fascinating.


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