Scent of the Missing
Author: Susannah Charleston
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½
In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Susannah Charleson clipped a photo from the newspaper of 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. 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. Scent of the Missing is the story of Susannah and Puzzle’s adventures as they search for the missing lost teen, an Alzheimer’s patient wandering in the cold, signs of the crew amid the debris of the space shuttle Columbia disaster and unravel the mystery of the bond between humans and dogs.
I’m a TV crime show buff – most of the time if you check out my recent shows on Hulu, you will see things like Law and Order, Blue Bloods or Chicago PD in my recently viewed shows. Ocassionally, i’ll be watching one of these shows and i’ll see a peak of people working a crime scene and cadaver dogs searching for bodies at the potential dump site for a serial killer. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of search dogs and when Scent of the Missing popped up as a potential book for a reading challenge, I opted to read it and find out just a bit more.
Scent of the Missing intertwines chapters of training scenarios where the author worked as a volunteer with chapters dedicated to the training of a Search and Rescue dog – specific for this book, a Golden Retriever called Puzzle (or Puzz as she is referred to throughout). I have to admit that I was surprised by the amount of training that it took to ensure that a dog was fully qualified. I mean I knew that you didn’t just get a dog one day and they were qualified as a search dog the next – but the evolution of a search dog from a puppy (Susannah got Puzzle from a breeder when she was 8 weeks old and had been involved with selecting the right puppy before they were even available to take home) to a fully qualified dog around 2 years of age (when Puzzle finished her official certification).
I thought that the author did a good job balancing real life searches where she provided support to other handler’s and their dogs with the training that she was going through with Puzzle (oftentimes at the same time). I found her volunteering to be a victim as part of training scenarios to be intriguing and something that I would love to potentially do in the future (or the same could be said for volunteering in mass casualty training scenarios). ultimately, I gave Scent of the Missing 3.5 stars because it was a solid enjoyable read, but didn’t completely blow me away. I also didn’t find myself too emotionally invested in any of the searches (as I have found myself in other non-fiction books).