BOOKS: Dog Heroes
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2002:
Dog Heroes: Saving Lives & Protecting America
by Jen Bidner
The Lyons Press (P.O. Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437), 2002.
138 pp., illustrated, hardcover. $16.95.
Do not mistake Dog Heroes, by Jen Bidner, for just another
kitchy souvenir of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. No
doubt the prominent role of search-and-rescue and cadaver-sniffing
dogs in the aftermath of September 11 have helped search-dog trainer
Bidner to find a publisher and bookstore shelf space, but there is a
great deal more to Dog Heroes than just the 187 color photos and the
mostly familiar anecdotes about the dogs who worked at all of the
attack locations to help find and identify victims.
Bidner has assembled a succinct yet thorough resume of the
entire history of the use of search-and-rescue and tracking dogs as
partners in law enforcement, going back to the Middle Ages. Bidner
also extensively describes how dogs of differing specialties are
trained, and what distinguishes a dog suited to one job from a dog
who might be better in a slightly different role.
I have been writing from time to time for many years about
search-and-rescue dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, and seemingly ordinary
dogs who suddenly prove themselves heroic, and still learned a great
deal from Bidner in just a short while.
Her most important message to everyone who has a dog,
however, may be the search dog trainer’s credo, “Always trust your
dog.” If your dog says stop, look, and listen, do it–because the
major difference between your dog and a trained search dog is not the
ability of the dog to recognize danger, nor the loyalty of the dog
to the handler, but rather the enhanced skill of the dog in
communicating with a human.
Some dogs, for example, are better able and perhaps more
inclined than others to tell us the location of an unmarked Civil War
grave, or where a bear is sleeping, or that a speeding car is a
block away are soon to reach us, yet most alert dogs have the
ability to sense such things, and must think we are idiots because