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New Book Examines "The Wonder Of Working Dogs"

Author Cat Warren and her dog Solo

A common sight in tragedies such as this week’s Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps is working dogs, helping their human handlers search for human remains. Dogs are also used for bomb detection, rescuing disaster survivors, and sniffing out illegal contraband and other professional tasks. The work of these dogs is seen as equally heroic as the human effort.

You may think your dog is smart, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good working dog.  What goes into making a good canine team is the subject of the new book, What the Dogs Knows, by journalist Cat Warren, who for the last decade has volunteered with canine search-and-rescue teams.

Credit catwarren.com
"What The Dog Knows" chronicles Cat Warren's journey with her dog Solo in searching for the dead. What was at first a way to harness her dog's unruly energy soon became a unique calling for the both of them.

Warren was in Milwaukee recently, and she shared her experience and challenges in training her first cadaver dog - Solo - with Lake Effect's Bonnie North. Solo started off as a very strong-willed dog who did not take to common training well, so Warren decided to train him as a working dog to challenge Solo and harness his energy. Little would she know that in helping Solo become a working dog, he would help her discover a new realm of work and passion outside of academia.

"I loved it because it combined science [and] it helped my relationship with Solo. The world of forensics and mystery drew me in, and Solo was really good at it," said Warren.

While there are many challenges in training a working dog and executing that training in the forensic field, Warren says there is no greater fulfillment in her partnership with Solo.

"That working partnership is something that takes so much time and effort on the part of a good handler. And then, paired with a good dog, I think it's the closest I see to magic."

Cat Warren is a journalist and professor at North Carolina State University. Her recent book is called What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs.  She was in Milwaukee recently to talk about the book at Boswell Book Company.


Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.