Synopses & Reviews
An inspiring story that shows how dogs can be rescued, and can rescue in return.
With her critically acclaimed, bestselling first book, Scent of the Missing, Susannah Charleson was widely praised for her unique insight into the kinship between humans and dogs, as revealed through her work in canine search and rescue alongside her partner, golden retriever Puzzle.
Now, in The Possibility Dogs, Charleson journeys into the world of psychiatric service, where dogs aid humans with disabilities that may be unseen but are no less felt. This work had a profound effect on Charleson, perhaps because, for her, this journey began as a personal one: Charleson herself struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder for months after a particularly grisly search. Collaboration with her search dog partner made the surprising difference to her own healing. Inspired by that experience, Charleson learns to identify abandoned dogs with service potential, often plucking them from shelters at the last minute, and to train them for work beside hurting partners, to whom these second-chance dogs bring intelligence, comfort, and hope.
Along the way she comes to see canine potential everywhere, often where she least expects it — from Merlin the chocolate lab puppy with the broken tail once cast away in a garbage bag, who now stabilizes his partners panic attacks; to Ollie, the blind and deaf terrier, rescued moments before it was too late, who now soothes anxious children; to Jake Piper, the starving pit bull terrier mix with the wayward ears who is transformed into a working service dog and, who, for Charleson, goes from abandoned to irreplaceable.
"Scent of the Missing contains wonderful writing about dogs and plenty of powerful, compassionate writing about the community of mankind. In its telling, it is respectful of life and celebrates the living." -Rick Bass
"The transformation of Puzzle the cuddly pup into Puzzle the professional search-and-rescue dog would be story enough, but Susannah Charleson gives us far more. With lean, lovely prose she takes us on a clear-eyed, compassionate journey into a mysterious world in which every story begins as a ghost story. When Charleson turns the search inward, she does so deftly, never straying more than a leash-length from the heart and soul of this book: Puzzle, and the all-too mortal ghosts she seeks." -Michael Perry, author of Population: 485 and Coop "Scent of the Missing is not only a 'stay up too late at night' story, it's a brilliantly written book that should be on every dog lover's bed stand. Her descriptions of her dogs are laugh out loud funny, and her use of language is so rich Im not sure if I want to read her book or eat it.” -Patricia B. McConnell, author of The Other End of the Leash and For the Love of a Dog
“A fascinating woman, Susannah Charleson, has written eloquently about her fascinating colleague, a golden retriever named Puzzle, and the critically important search and rescue work that these two faced together. Scent of the Missing is a clear documentation of the ability of search and rescue dogs, and a celebration of the human-animal bond." -Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs
"A riveting view of both the human animal bond and the training of search and rescue dogs. All dog lovers and people interested in training service dogs should read this book." -Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make us Human and Animals in Translation
“Scent of the Missing is heartwarming, heart-achingly poignant, and riveting from page one. Puzzle had me from her first joyous wroo!” -Hallie Ephron, author of Never Tell a Lie “This book is a fantastic discovery! Dog and human decipher each other's language and behavior to solve the mystery of the missing, and along the way find their bonds of love, trust and friendship grow. I loved this book." - Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica and Grayson
"[I]f you want to read about a dog who's a real hero, try Susannah Charleson's refreshingly grounded memoir, Scent of the Missing (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26)." —Washington Post "In a dog book, I look for great information, a wonderful story about the relationship between humans and dogs, and anecdotes that are funny, insightful and memorable. Rarely do all three components come together, but Susannah Charleson's memoir has the whole package. Beautifully written, informative, charming in every detail that chronicle the life and work of Susannah and her dog Puzzle, and laugh-'til-you-snort funny, it's a magnificent work."
—Bark Magazine "In a revealing new book, author Susannah Charleson shares the trials, tribulations, and unexpected rewards of training her own search-and-rescue dog….gripping."
—Cesars Way "Susannah's tales of searches are filled with urgency and suspense. They are tastefully and sympathetically portrayed, never delving into the macabre. This beautifully crafted and well-paced story, interwoven with threads on training, SAR science and the author's personal trials, makes for truly compelling reading."
—BookReporter "In this haunting meditation on trust, hope and love, Charleson chronicles her work as a handler with Dallas canine search-and-rescue team. A mesmerizing close-up of dogs trained to sniff for human scent, the book also celebrates Charlesons extraordinary partnership with Puzzle, her golden retriever. Whether describing finding a missing child in an air duct or searching for survivors amid the debris of the Columbia space shuttle, Charlesons prose is palpably alive, showing how each job, like life, entails placing "one foot before another, hoping for good but prepared for grief, and following the dog ahead anyhow."
—Caroline Leavitt, People Magazine "Charleson's depictions of the dogs, how they work and their joys and pains (and hers) are a pleasure to read, both informative and heartwarming....A fascinating, intense and often delightful story about training a search-and-rescue dog."
—ShelfAwareness "The unique dynamic between man and "mans best friend" is passionately explored by a search-and-rescue dog handler....An inspiring collection of rescue tales ideal for dog lovers and armchair detectives."
—Kirkus "This memorable tribute to the dedication of these dog-handler teams is an essential read for dog lovers."
—STARRED Library Journal
"An inspiring and refreshingly optimistic reminder about the untapped possibilities that exist in the relationships between humans and dogs." Kirkus Reviews
"You don't have to be an animal lover to be moved by this beautifully written and impassioned account of the author's work rescuing dogs from shelters and training them to be service animals....This is the rare book that can change minds about the reality of animals' emotional lives." Publishers Weekly, starred
"For everyone who is interested in the human animal bond, this book is essential reading. Learn how service dogs can provide emotional support for people who are in great need." Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make us Human and Animals in Translation
"An eloquent and heartwarming journey into the world of some very special dogs. Susannah Charleson is a great humanitarian who recounts her efforts to turn abandoned and shelter-bound dogs into special service dogs for a host of less visible human disabilities. She succeeds as brilliantly as her re-purposed canines and in The Possibility Dogs we cheer her every step of the way." Susan Richards, author of Chosen By a Horse
"What an amazing book. Combine love, knowledge and real-life drama with pitch-perfect writing, and you'll end up with The Possibility Dogs. Simply brilliant!" Patricia McConnell, author of The Other End of the Leash
"Reading The Possibility Dogs is like taking an amazing literary journey with a dear friend by your side. The characters you meet will enchant you, but the storyteller will capture your heart. If you love dogs, this is a can't miss book written by a kindred spirit." Jennifer Arnold, author of Through a Dog's Eyes and In a Dog's Heart
"Susannah Charleson is not a dog trainer who simply writes of dogs, but a true writer of lean, layered prose, who, like all fine writers, cannot help but tell us what lies closest to her heart and soul. The Possibility Dogs resonates with this — with desperate dogs and people close to the edge, close to being forgotten, who, through the efforts of Susannah and others, find each other, and in doing so, learn what is truly possible in life." Steve Duno, author of Last Dog on the Hill and Leader of the Pack
A uniquely personal, moving, and inspiring journey into the rapidly emerging world of psychiatric service dogs, as Susannah Charleson works as an evaluator in shelters, plucking unwanted dogs, big and small, training them for this unique kind of service, and matching them with people in need.
From the author of the critically acclaimed bestseller, Scent of the Missing
, a heartwarming and inspiring story that shows how dogs can be rescued, and rescue in return.
For her first book, Susannah Charleson was praised for her unique insight into the kinship between humans and dogs, as revealed through canine search and rescue. In The Possibility Dogs Charleson chronicles her journey into the world of psychiatric-service and therapy dogs trained to serve the human mind, a journey that began as a personal one. After a particularly grisly search led to a struggle with PTSD, Charleson credits healing to her partnership with search dog Puzzle. Inspired by that experience and having met dogs formally trained to assist in such crises, Charleson learns to identify abandoned dogs with service potential, often plucking them from shelters at the last minute, and to train them for work beside hurting partners, to whom these second-chance dogs bring intelligence, comfort, and hope.
From black Lab puppy Merlin, once cast away in a garbage bag, who stabilizes his partners panic attacks to Ollie, the blind and deaf terrier who soothes anxious children, to Jake Piper, the starving Pit Bull mix who goes from abandoned to irreplaceable, The Possibility Dogs illuminates a whole new world of canine potential.
About the Author
Susannah Charleson is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Scent of the Missing, as well as a flight instructor, service dog trainer, and canine search-and-rescue team member, who most recently began a non-profit organization called The Possibility Dogs, which rescues, trains, and places dogs with people suffering "unseen" disabilities. She lives with her search partner, Puzzle, a golden retriever certified for the recovery of missing persons, her service dog partner-in-training, Jake Piper, a German shepherd-pit bull-poodle mix, as well as a rabble of pomeranians, a chihuahua-cairn terrier mix, and two cats.