BOOK REVIEW: Take a Solo journey into the world of cadaver dogs

What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs
Warren, C.
Touchstone, 2013,
ISBN-10: 1451667310, 352 pages. $16.63

Cat Warren’s journey into the world of cadaver dogs began with one very bad puppy. She loved German shepherds, just not this one, at least not in the early going. Solo was a singleton puppy and had grown up without littermates. He didn’t know how to co-exist with other dogs and his relationship with humans was troubled. “He’s just a jackass,” a dog trainer told her, but what he really needed was a job. The search to find a purpose for Solo led Cat Warren into the world of cadaver dogs. Solo had a gift for tracking, and Cat Warren would discover that the two of them would find a purpose by finding bodies. But this is not just a linear story of Cat Warren and her dog Solo. A university professor and former journalist, Warren takes the reader on a journey in every direction and every question that follows from cadaver searching. She explores the history of working dogs and the many ways that dogs help humans search for lost people, drugs, bombs or the dead. But she has little patience for those who would exaggerate and use dogs to boost their own careers. Some have fraudulently used the nose of dogs to convict the innocent, but Warren deconstructs how an alert investigator can uncover the scheme. Warren is precise in her reporting, laying out what is possible and impossible for search dogs. No, a dog cannot track a person months after driving off in a car, but with a recent scent and a trail that has not had heavy cross traffic some amazing feats are possible. Cadaver dogs can help find bodies trapped in a deep lake or in the middle of a raging river. And although the work is grim, it is also brings closure for suffering families.

By the end of this book, you may find yourself starting to understand a little more about how your dog experiences the world. That will make taking this journey with Cat Warren all the more worthwhile.

— Ed Bond