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Scent of the Missing: CSI Meets Marley and Me

scent of the missing bookScent of the Missing is like CSI meets Marley and Me. Instead of learning about blood splatter patterns you take a tour of the world of volunteer search and rescue dogs. Susannah Charleson tells a totally personal account of how she got hooked on the work after a divorce and experience as a search pilot.
I’d put off reading the novel because I recently lost my own dog, Jolly, and dreaded that kind of Marley and Me heart-wrenching ending. All dog stories have sad endings. Well–spoiler alert–not this one. The story ends when Puzzle is just starting her career as a search and rescue dog after a long journey of training getting there. So dog lovers can go ahead and pick this book up without fear of crying.
Until I read this book I had no idea that so many of the search and rescue teams out there are volunteers. It’s like having a highly specialized fire fighting team on a national level. They get calls in the middle of the night, dodge paying jobs to help out in the field.
Charleson says the friend who most understands is one who says “you want to learn to fly a dog”
It’s that aspect of the book–how the search and rescue teams learn how to communicate with and absolutely trust their dogs–that most fascinates me. The dogs learn how to find any person in the case of disaster, a specific person in the case of a missing child or alzheimer’s patient  who wanders away and, most impressively, to signal that the target is not in the sector where they are looking. That allows rescuers to narrow their search–but only if the handlers learn to trust their dogs’ judgment over witness accounts.
My only quibble with the book is I wish there were more of a history of using dogs in search and how our knowledge of them has evolved and the techniques improved. Bbit onced I got over the fear of a  sappy ending, I couldn’t put scent of the missing down. It’s a great read for any dog person and it leaves you wondering what else could we learn to communicate with our dogs about.

See the the Scent of the Missing Website

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