BOOKS: Weekends with Daisy
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2013: (Actually published on November 20, 2013.)
Weekends with Daisy by Sharron Kahn Luttrell Simon & Schuster (1230 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10020), 2013. 311 pages, hardcover. $26.00.
Weekends with Daisy is a journey into the care and training of puppies who will be placed with disabled people. Before service dogs enter advanced training, they live with foster parents for socialization, housebreaking, and introduction to public places including airports, bus stations, and shopping centers. Founded in 1976 as Dogs for Deaf & Disabled Americans, National Education for Assistance Dog Services trains mostly shelter dogs. The oldest continuously operating hearing dog program in the U.S., NEADS was more-or-less the model for the better known San Francisco SPCA hearing dog program, which operated from 1978 to 2008. Since finding dedicated and reliable foster families is not always easy, NEADS operates a Prison Pup Partnership. This program places puppies in 10 New England prisons where inmates raise and train them for assistance work. More than 90% of the 1,400 dogs who have been trained by NEADS have come through the prison program. After losing her beloved family dog, Weekends with Daisy author Sharron Kahn Luttrell volunteered with NEADS, training dogs with inmates under outside supervision on weekdays, hosting the dogs at her home on weekends. Luttrell extensively describes her time with service-dog-in-training Daisy, but I would like to have to heard more from Keith, the inmate who kept Daisy during the week at the J.J. Moran Medium Security Facility in Rhode Island. What was living with a dog inside a penitentiary like? How did Keith spend his days with a dog in training? Did he become emotionally attached to Daisy? Only two-thirds of the way through the book does Luttrell learn that Keith is incarcerated for murder. As a nosy ex-New Yorker, and a person concerned about who looks after a dog I am responsible for, I would have checked sooner. Luttrell and Keith are equal partners in Daisy’s training. Both have feelings about Daisy and how she is trained. Keith’s voice might have made Weekends with Daisy stand out among the ever-growing library of books about working dogs and dog training. ––Debra J. White