Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review: Dogs of Courage (dogs, talents/jobs)

Dogs of Courage: The Heroism and Heart of Working Dogs Around the World by Lisa Rogak (Thomas Dunne Books, 273 pages, 2012, $14.99) 

Lisa Rogak has the most thoroughly researched books I have ever come across. Each is like a textbook. I would even like to see her write a textbook – I, for one, would read it, no matter the subject!

Dogs of Courage tells us about the work and training of police dogs; fire dogs; search and rescue (SAR) dogs; guide, service and assistance dogs; therapy dogs; prison dogs (trained in prisons); disease detection dogs; and civilian and celebrity dogs (Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Broadway dogs). Some of the chapters I was well-acquainted with but others were eye-opening and provided much detail.

Each chapter profiles up to three dogs whose ‘jobs’ fall within the topic of that chapter. 

However, the profiles are printed in smaller font and on gray pages (not white), making them a bit harder to read, especially if one reads in bed at night. 

As a matter of fact, it might be more fascinating to have most of the book composed of profiles (but not too many) with just a few pages of explanation rather than the other way around.

Complete citations for text footnotes appear at the end of the book, as well as canine organizations with their websites, and a reference section of related books (but a few people mentioned in the body of the book for some reason did not merit an entry in the resources section).

Dogs of Courage would almost be a godsend to anyone writing a term paper. Maybe a one-stop shopping trip – at least a grand beginning.

Rogak provides incredible detail – so much that it is almost mind-boggling. Perhaps the information would make a more lasting impression if she had given more space to real stories of dogs rather than the almost too numerous quotes by numerous people and only a few real stories. It was almost as if she had so much material, she was bound and determined to include all of it – quotes and all. Sometimes we writers need an excellent editor: it is so hard to edit down our own material because we think it is all great (but is it all necessary?). Sometimes briefer is better.

My take-away lessons are the brilliance of the canine nose, enabling dogs to detect odors days old in just minutes; the incredible adaptability of our dogs; and how few service dog candidates actually make it to graduation.

Dogs of Courage includes a chapter on wildlife detection dogs. Did you know that black Lab Tucker, the orca-whale-poop-detection dog, is successful in part because he is afraid of the water (so he stays in the boat)?

This book could absolutely excite you about more than one type of ‘job’ for dogs and help you decide what ‘job’ to train your dog for. Now all we need is a similar book on dog sports!

Truly an encyclopedia of dogs in one volume. Thank you, Lisa.

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