From two-time National Book Award nominee Melissa Fay Greene comes a profound and surprising account of dogs on the front lines of rescuing both children and adults from the trenches of grief, emotional, physical, and cognitive disability, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Underdogs tells the story of Karen Shirk, felled at age twenty-four by a neuromuscular disease and facing life as a ventilator-dependent, immobile patient, who was turned down by every service dog agency in the country because she was “too disabled.” Her nurse encouraged her to tone down the suicidal thoughts, find a puppy, and raise her own service dog. Karen did this, and Ben, a German shepherd, dragged her back into life. “How many people are stranded like I was,” she wondered, “who would lead productive lives if only they had a dog?”
A thousand state-of-the-art dogs later, Karen Shirk’s service dog academy, 4 Paws for Ability, is restoring broken children and their families to life. Long shunned by scientists as a manmade, synthetic species, and oft- referred to as “Man’s Best Friend” almost patronizingly, dogs are finally paid respectful attention by a new generation of neuroscientists and animal behaviorists. Melissa Fay Greene weaves the latest scientific discoveries about our co-evolution with dogs with Karen’s story and a few exquisitely rendered stories of suffering children and their heartbroken families.
Written with characteristic insight, humanity, humor, and irrepressible joy, what could have been merely touching is a penetrating, compassionate exploration of larger questions: about our attachment to dogs, what constitutes a productive life, and what can be accomplished with unconditional love.
Melissa Fay Greene is the author of Praying for Sheetrock; The Temple Bombing; Last Man Out;There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue her Country’s Children; and No Biking in the House Without A Helmet. Her honors include two National Book Award nominations, a National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, the ACLU National Civil Liberties Award, the Hadassah Myrtle Wreath Award, the Salon Book Award, Elle Magazine’s Readers’ Prize, the Georgia Author Award, and a Dog Writers of America Award. She is a current Guggenheim Fellow.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Juke 13
Chapter 2 4 Paws for Ability 29
Chapter 3 Connor 57
Chapter 4 Karen & Piper 69
Chapter 5 Lucy 95
Chapter 6 Casey & Connor 109
Chapter 7 Karen & Ben 127
Chapter 8 Logan 141
Chapter 9 Hero Dogs 163
Chapter 10 Iyal 185
Chapter 11 Shelter Dogs 197
Chapter 12 Prison Dogs 215
Chapter 13 Lucy & Jolly 235
Chapter 14 Casey & Connor II 251
Chapter 15 Logan & Juke 269
Chapter 16 Eddie Hill & Timber & Dante & Keeper & Jiminy 281
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