The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of "Unadoptables" Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing

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Overview

An inspiring story that shows how dogs can be rescued, and can rescue in return.

With her critically acclaimed, bestselling first book, Scent of the Missing, Susannah Charleson was widely praised for her unique insight into the kinship between humans and dogs, as revealed through her work in canine search and rescue alongside her partner, golden retriever Puzzle.

Now, in The Possibility Dogs, Charleson journeys into the world of psychiatric ...

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The Possibility Dogs: What I Learned from Second-Chance Rescues About Service, Hope, and Healing

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Overview

An inspiring story that shows how dogs can be rescued, and can rescue in return.

With her critically acclaimed, bestselling first book, Scent of the Missing, Susannah Charleson was widely praised for her unique insight into the kinship between humans and dogs, as revealed through her work in canine search and rescue alongside her partner, golden retriever Puzzle.

Now, in The Possibility Dogs, Charleson journeys into the world of psychiatric service, where dogs aid humans with disabilities that may be unseen but are no less felt. This work had a profound effect on Charleson, perhaps because, for her, this journey began as a personal one: Charleson herself struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder for months after a particularly grisly search. Collaboration with her search dog partner made the surprising difference to her own healing. Inspired by that experience, Charleson learns to identify abandoned dogs with service potential, often plucking them from shelters at the last minute, and to train them for work beside hurting partners, to whom these second-chance dogs bring intelligence, comfort, and hope.
Along the way she comes to see canine potential everywhere, often where she least expects it – from Merlin the chocolate lab puppy with the broken tail once cast away in a garbage bag, who now stabilizes his partner’s panic attacks; to Ollie, the blind and deaf terrier, rescued moments before it was too late, who now soothes anxious children; to Jake Piper, the starving pit bull terrier mix with the wayward ears who is transformed into a working service dog and, who, for Charleson, goes from abandoned to irreplaceable.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Every rescue dog owner know that their lovable pets rescue back and forward. This new book by rescue advocate and author Susannah Charleson (Scent of the Missing) describes her laudable work training these abandoned creatures to become service animals for the blind, disabled, and traumatized. Her graceful writing and powers of observation make The Possibility Dogs one of the best books ever written on these heroic animals and their devoted friends. Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
You don’t have to be an animal lover to be moved by this beautifully written and impassioned account of the author’s work rescuing dogs from shelters and training them to be service animals. Some go on to assist the visually impaired, while others help soldiers returning from combat to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. Others aid sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder, allowing them to stay on task. While plenty of writers have shared their experiences of animal empathy, few have done so as well as Charleson (Scent of the Missing). An emotional highpoint is her description of Lexie, “a very light blond retriever from a bad situation who could use a little rescuing herself.” Charleson teams Lexie up with Nancy, an online friend who has treatment-resistant depression. Nancy is given new opportunities to function by her service animal. This is the rare book that can change minds about the reality of animals’ emotional lives. (June)
From the Publisher
"An inspiring and refreshingly optimistic reminder about the untapped possibilities that exist in the relationships between humans and dogs." Kirkus Reviews

"You don’t have to be an animal lover to be moved by this beautifully written and impassioned account of the author’s work rescuing dogs from shelters and training them to be service animals...This is the rare book that can change minds about the reality of animals’ emotional lives." —Publishers Weekly, starred

“Possibility Dogs” is a moving page-turner of a memoir from an accomplished trainer who shifts from the work of search and rescue to that of psychiatric service dogs. Her gritty, funny, insightful stories are of down-and-out dogs who end up performing miracles for people suffering from such things as post-traumatic stress disorder, acute panic attacks, or obsessive-compulsive disorder....Insightful and earthy, Charleson is never maudlin. She keeps it real....All the stories have tremendous heart and power and you believe Charleson when she writes: 'Any dog can surprise you,' and 'great dogs can come in odd packages.'  Boston Globe

"For everyone who is interested in the human animal bond, this book is essential reading. Learn how service dogs can provide emotional support for people who are in great need." Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make us Human and Animals in Translation

"An eloquent and heartwarming journey into the world of some very special dogs. Susannah Charleson is a great humanitarian who recounts her efforts to turn abandoned and shelter-bound dogs into special service dogs for a host of less visible human disabilities. She succeeds as brilliantly as her re-purposed canines and in THE POSSIBILITY DOGS we cheer her every step of the way." Susan Richards, author of Chosen By a Horse

"What an amazing book. Combine love, knowledge and real-life drama with pitch-perfect writing, and you'll end up with The Possibility Dogs. Simply brilliant!"  Patricia McConnell, author of The Other End of the Leash

"Reading The Possibility Dogs is like taking an amazing literary journey with a dear friend by your side.  The characters you meet will enchant you, but the storyteller will capture your heart. If you love dogs, this is a can’t miss book written by a kindred spirit." Jennifer Arnold, author of Through a Dog’s Eyes and In a Dog’s Heart

"Susannah Charleson is not a dog trainer who simply writes of dogs, but a true writer of lean, layered prose, who, like all fine writers, cannot help but tell us what lies closest to her heart and soul. The Possibility Dogs resonates with this- with desperate dogs and people close to the edge, close to being forgotten, who, through the efforts of Susannah and others, find each other, and in doing so, learn what is truly possible in life." Steve Duno, author of Last Dog on the Hill and Leader of the Pack

Library Journal
Charleson (Scent of the Missing) takes readers on a new journey after a particularly gruesome search-and-rescue case involving 40 dogs that had been tortured, which left her suffering from PTSD. After noticing that Puzzle, her search-and-rescue dog, was helping her through these episodes, and following a chance encounter with a firefighter suffering from traumatic brain injury, Charleson became curious about psychiatric service dogs. This deeply moving and personal story chronicles the author's experiences learning to identify potential service dogs in shelters and discovering her own need for therapy dogs, especially as she also struggles with kidney disease. Eventually, Charleson forms a service dog nonprofit called Possibility Dogs. Her story not only underlies the strength of the human-dog connection but also shows that rescued dogs from all sorts of backgrounds and breeds (Charleson's therapy dog is a pit bull mix she rescued), even those with limitations (Ollie, a blind and deaf terrier, helps children overcome anxiety) can fill critical roles for humans in need. VERDICT A touching and inspirational story that will appeal to animal lovers.—Lisa Ennis, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham
Kirkus Reviews
The compassionate account of the author's experiences with psychiatric service dogs. For years, Charleson (Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog, 2010) was a dedicated canine search-and-rescue professional. After a particularly "ugly" search in 2004, she was diagnosed with critical-incident stress by one doctor and PTSD by another. Before she could sink too far into mental illness, Puzzle, the golden retriever puppy she had been training as a search-and-rescue dog, "badgered [her] free" from the fear that was ruling her life. Charleson eventually learned that the demand was growing for canines with the ability to help and support people with mental and emotional problems. The expense involved in "raising, training and providing excellent care" for psychiatric service-dog candidates, however, made them too costly for many individuals. Determined to show that owners could teach suitable dogs to become their assistants, Charleson went into shelters to locate a dog with the resilience, intelligence and good nature necessary to do psychiatric service work and that she could train on her own. She found her candidate in a starving pit bull terrier puppy she named Jake Piper. Drawing on her encounters with many extraordinary psych service dogs and their handlers, as well as her own experiences with mental illness, Charleson trained Jake to distract her away from anxiety-based behaviors like compulsive stove checking. The story she tells about her dogs is remarkable, but those she includes about other canines--like Merlin, the black lab who could sense the onset of panic attacks, and Ollie, the blind and deaf terrier who brought comfort to anxious children--are equally amazing. An inspiring and refreshingly optimistic reminder about the untapped possibilities that exist in the relationships between humans and dogs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547734934
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/4/2013
  • Pages: 260
  • Sales rank: 680,717
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Susannah Charleson is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Scent of the Missing , as well as a flight instructor, service dog trainer, and canine search-and-rescue team member, who most recently began a non-profit organization called The Possibility Dogs, which rescues, trains, and places dogs with people suffering "unseen" disabilities. She lives with her search partner, Puzzle, a golden retriever certified for the recovery of missing persons, her service dog partner-in-training, Jake Piper, a German shepherd-pit bull-poodle mix, as well as a rabble of pomeranians, a chihuahua-cairn terrier mix, and two cats.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2013

    Profoundly insightful description of how partnerships between hu

    Profoundly insightful description of how partnerships between human beings with disabilities, both physical and mental, and service dog candidates carefully evaluated for their capabilities, can be brought together to make life not only bearable but sparkling for both dog and human.


    Perceptive, kind, but not sappy; I'm reading my copy the second time and gifting it to friends.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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