Cat Warren is a university professor and former journalist with an admittedly odd hobby: She and her German shepherd have spent the last seven years searching for the dead. Solo is a cadaver dog. What started as a way to harness Solo's unruly energy and enthusiasm soon became a calling that introduced Warren to the hidden and fascinating universe of working dogs, their handlers, and their trainers.
Solo has a fine nose and knows how to use it, but he's only one of many thousands of working dogs all over the United States and beyond. In What the Dog Knows, Warren uses her ongoing work with Solo as a way to explore a captivating field that includes cadaver dogs, drug- and bomb-detecting K9s, tracking and apprehension dogs--even dogs who can locate unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers and help find drowning victims more than two hundred feet below the surface of a lake. Working dogs' abilities may seem magical or mysterious, but Warren shows the multifaceted science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie the amazing abilities of dogs who work with their noses.
Warren interviews cognitive psychologists, historians, medical examiners, epidemiologists, and forensic anthropologists, as well as the breeders, trainers, and handlers who work with and rely on these remarkable and adaptable animals daily. Along the way, she discovers story after story that proves the impressive capabilities--as well as the very real limits--of working dogs and their human partners. Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Warren explains why our partnership with dogs is woven into the fabric of society and why we keep finding new uses for their wonderful noses.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-09-16
- Reviewer: Staff
In this combination of history, science, and memoir, North Carolina State journalism professor Warren look at the ways in which domestic animals have been able to assist humans, specifically the world of cadaver dogs, drug and bomb detecting police dogs, and tracking dogs. The author quickly gains the reader's sympathy with humorous accounts of her first days with Solo, the cadaver dog she's owned since birth, and earns the reader's respect with a well-researched chapter that calls into question much of the accepted and fluctuating statistics regarding dogs' superior sense of smell. Her history of the use of animals to locate human remains, which dates back to 1970, is balanced and authoritative. She provides insight into the emotional life of cadaver dog handlers, observing that there is much stress involved in the profession. The author also effectively critiques the misuse of animals' abilities in the legal system, where fraudulent claims of what their dogs found sent people to prison unjustly. The book is a welcome and necessary addition to the growing body of literature on the subject. 24 b& w photos. Agent: Gillian MacKenzie, Gillian Mackenzie Agency. (Oct.)