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What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs Hardcover – October 1, 2013
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"What the Dog Knows is a fascinating, deeply reported journey into scent, death, forensics and the amazing things dogs can do with their noses: sniffing out graves, truffles, bedbugs, maybe even cancer. But it's also a moving story of how one woman transformed her troubled dog into a loving companion and an asset to society, all while stumbling on the beauty of life in their searches for death." (Rebecca Skloot, in the New York Times Book Review)
“Warren writes with verve and provides rare insight into our working partnership with canines.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“A beautifully written, fascinating, heartwarming, and oft-hilarious homage to working dogs. A must-read for anyone who wants to know more about four-legged working heroes. I'd like to shake Solo's paw for inspiring Cat Warren to write it.” (Maria Goodavage, author of Soldier Dogs)
“Move over CSI, and make way for Cat Warren and her forensic dog Solo to grab and keep your attention. What the Dog Knows is beautifully and compelling written—not only could I not put it down, I didn't want to.” (Patricia B. McConnell, PhD, CAAB, author of The Other End of the Leash)
“What the Dog Knows is a fascinating exploration into the minds and characters of some very special dogs. No one who cares about dogs should miss this smart, funny, and at times surprisingly moving book.” (Spencer Quinn, author of Dog on It)
“Enter the fascinating world of working dogs.” (Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human)
“Warren highlights the profound partnership developed between humans and dogs during their intense, but positive training, and in real situations. We are with her as she starts training her dog, and throughout the mistakes, triumphs, struggles, and rewards. I was entertained and educated—much of what I learned about dogs I had never encountered in any other book. …The people and dogs who inhabit this world are unforgettable.” (Stacey O'Brien, author of Wesley the Owl)
“The capabilities of these specially trained working dogs are remarkable. The author provides fascinating insider information about a meaningful partnership that has important legal and personal consequences.” (Amy Hempel, author of Reasons to Live and The Dog of the Marriage)
"What the Dog Knows is first the story of the relationship between a hard-working cadaver dog and his human companion. But that deeply-felt relationship opens the way to an exploration of the working dog world and in doing so becomes something more—a realization of the intelligence, determination, and decency of these animals, a story both wonderful and wise." (Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls)
“Working dogs, be they search and rescue, cadaver or explosive detection specialists, are—like their human partners—a breed apart. They inhabit a world of complete commitment, utter dedication, and extraordinarily rigorous training. What the Dog Knows is greatly enriched by author Cat Warren’s own love of digging. She and Solo take us on some fascinating detours through history and phony-baloney claims en route to the science, wonder and awe that all rightly surround dogs’ noses.” (Sue Russell, author of Lethal Intent and The Illustrated Courtroom)
“Warren’s painstaking research on the history and science of working dogs debunks myths and explains what is known–and how much remains unknown–about canine abilities and behavior. By combining this hard information with anecdotes about training Solo, accounts of searching the North Carolina woods for dead bodies, and the stories of other trainers and their dogs, she has produced a book that is both informative and entertaining. Although her love for Solo is palpable, she remains analytical and clear-headed, never romanticizing what he or other working dogs do.” (Bruce DeSilva, Edgar Award-winning author of the Mulligan crime novels)
“Cat Warren has captured both the magic and the best science behind the success of the modern working dog. This book masterfully shows how even the best technology cannot compete with our best friends. If you have ever wondered what dogs are truly capable of this is the book for you.” (Brian Hare, evolutionary anthropologist and author of The Genius of Dogs)
“What the Dog Knows is first the story of the relationship between a hard-working cadaver dog and his human companion. But that deeply felt relationship opens the way to an exploration of the working dog world and in doing so becomes something more—a realization of the intelligence, determination, and decency of these animals, a story both wonderful and wise.” (Deborah Blum, author of Love at Goon Park and The Poisoner’s Handbook)
“A gifted story-teller, Cat Warren takes us on a fast-paced journey into the scents—some foul, some sweet, some softer than a breeze—of police detective work. This is a book for anyone who loves dogs, and has watched them catch a scent on the wind or in the leaves on the ground, and wondered about that brilliant organ they possess: the nose.” (Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise)
“In a series of accounts that sometimes read like detective stories, Cat Warren … takes us through the steps needed to create dogs that search for people—both living and dead—while describing her life and her special bond with a German shepherd named Solo.” (Stanley Coren, author of Born to Bark and Do Dogs Dream?)
“In this combination of history, science, and memoir, North Carolina State journalism professor Warren looks 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…. A welcome and necessary addition to the growing body of literature on the subject.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Fantastic … should be mandatory reading for any police dog handler or trainer.” (Andrew C. Revering, Chief of Police, Ret., Anoka, Minnesota Police Department)
“Warren writes . . . with the research-forward focus of an academic and the sweat-and-scabs storytelling of someone who has lived in the field. What the Dog Knows is an incredibly poignant book about dogs and people and how the lost can become found again.” (Indy Week)
"Just finished What the Dog Knows, Cat Warren's wonderful new book about the training of her cadaver dog, Solo. This is a real treat for serious dog people: informative, compelling, moving, sad, funny, the works. I loved it." (Carol Lea Benjamin, author of Dog Smart: The Art of Training Your Dog and Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Tr)
"A former journalist, the author possesses a keen sense of detail and pacing that informs, entertains, and quickly draws readers into her life and work with Solo." (Library Journal)
"More than a fascinating, inspiring look into the world of dogs and how dogs learn, What the Dog Knows illuminates--and celebrates!--the special bond we share with dogs. If you have ever loved a dog, you must read this book. I loved it!" (Robert Crais, author of Suspect)
“Delving into the history of working dogs, Warren mixes personal memoir with historical fact to present a fascinating and comprehensive work.” (Best Friends Magazine)
“ 'People aresmart, just like dogs.’ Seriously, how do you not like a book that containsthat line? . . . Warren was a journalist, is now a professor, and knows her wayaround a sentence. She clearly cares about the subject and has invested a lotof time and effort into getting to know it, her style is engaging and charming(I was chuckling within a couple of pages), and she doesn’t mind showing herown failings and weaknesses. . . . Fascinating, entertaining, and educational —can’t ask for much more than that.” (The Irresponsible Reader blog)
About the Author
Cat Warren is a professor at North Carolina State University, where she teaches science journalism, editing, and reporting courses. She lives with her husband and their German shepherds, Jaco, in Durham, North Carolina. Visit CatWarren.com.
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Top customer reviews
Dogs. Death. Murder. Mystery. Decomposition. Trust. Error. Life. Loss. Love. Discovery.
They’re all here––which is why WTDK can be read, among other things, as an extended meditation on human mortality and self-consciousness—two topics I’m drawn to. Warren has enlarged my sense of the possible ways to die: There are so so many ways to go (Be murdered and left to rot along a highway; get murdered and buried under a dead animal to throw off searchers, or simply to succumb to being lost.) And once one has departed, there are many ways, some slow, some fast, to fade from the earth––beer-bloated and submerged, or reduced to a years’ old oily smudge broadcasting a sweet, acidic scent through the godforsaken woods. As Warren explains, “we cease to exist,” but we also “stubbornly stick around.”
But cadaver dogs like Solo and handlers like Warren are important and incredibly interesting just because of who they are––solvers of mysteries, assuagers of grief, providers of endings to tragic stories of accidents or murder, and bringers of justice.
Of course, Solo, Warren’s canine partner, isn’t thinking about any of the above. He’s fully engaged in the here and now, focused finding and following death’s sweet scent––not its implications. He’s an expert in what Wallace Stevens called the “the.” Stuff. Running through it, around it, sensing it, sniffing it out, muscling through it. And as Solo’s partner, Warren must tune into this powerful canine mindfulness, too—or as she puts it––she must trust her dog:
“If the drugs or the gunpowder or the bone is actually there and a handler tries to move on? The dogs learns how to “commit,’ to plant himself stubbornly and ignore the handler’s prevarications or even a slight jerk on the lead to come off the scent, a pull that a less-evolved working dog might respond to.
It’s not mystifying. It’s not eerie. It is a beautiful sight, a dog trusting his nose, ignoring his handler’s efforts to get him to unstuck himself from the flypaper scent that he’s stuck to. The dog who ignores the handler’s gaze, which is irrelevant to the task at hand. This is what real faith should look like---hard and unwavering. This is what the co-evolution of a working dog and handler should look like. The dog’s commitment to the truth in the face of your moving away. That’s real teamwork—the dog pointing his nose or paw or entire body at the scent, telling his handler. You bloody idiot! It’s here!”
Do you think you see where this is going? Well you can’t. Well, Cat Warren is much too smart for any trite and saccharine “My Dog Saved Me” or “My Dog Taught Me To Really Embrace Life” bulls***. Instead we see the hard work, the misunderstandings, the errors in attention or translation that inform the dog-human partnership—or as Cat Warren would call it, the work. She even includes stories of notoriously fraudulent handlers just to remind us of the human predilection for lying—to ourselves and others.
For training a dog and one’s own head to find the occult dead is hard. Very difficult work. Important work. Scary work. Dangerous work. And I’m so grateful that Cat Warren and Solo and people and dogs like her have taken on the job. It’s an honor to get to know them and to read Warren’s very fine and brilliant book.
In 1998, I found an 8 week old, German Shepherd puppy and my journey with a very smart and energetic dog began. We did not go the same route, as Max was "just" my companion dog, after many wounds and much learning(mostly on my part). This book brought back those days, vividly, but also showed me to be much more respectful when I see search and rescue dogs in training. Crazy dogs they are, but Warren illustrates the service they do and the amazing dedication both dog and handler must have. Thank you, Cat Warren