Do you know what dogs can do?
The truth is almost anything – and they really like having a job.
At least, that’s the feeling I had as I read the book Dogs of Courage by Lisa Rogak.
Dogs can use their sniffers to detect endangered species, missing people, dangerous and illegal substances and even disease lurking in your body.
Dogs can use their bodies to protect, soothe, guide and inspire.
Most of all, dogs can use their instincts to serve and to love.
But often – not always – dogs need a human coach.
That theme runs throughout Rogak’s book, which is a comprehensive overview of the myriad roles of the modern working dog and what qualifies him for his gig.
In under 300 pages, the author describes in detail – and with plenty of expert interviews and real life anecdotes – dozens of jobs that dogs do for humans today.
Some dog careers are familiar – police work, search and rescue, therapy. Others are more unusual or more specialized than you might realize – arson detection, invasive species tracking, reading assistance.
The tales relayed by Rogak both educated and brought me near tears several times.
For me, one of the most fascinating stories involves Xolo dogs, a Mexican hairless breed. Their ultra-warm, small bodies are, apparently, ideally suited to help provide relief to sufferers of chronic pain.
Of course, other dog jobs are more complex and heroic on a grander scale, with canines acting to save humanity and other species on land, sea and even air, in all kinds of trying conditions.
Throughout the book, I kept squinting with my brain to imagine dogs I know performing the heroic acts Rogak describes.
I could see Luke offering comfort to residents of a nursing home.
I couldn’t so much see Charlie Machete staying focused enough to sniff out someone buried under rubble in an urban disaster area.
Perhaps there is some comfort in the fact that oftentimes the traits that help a dog excel at a given task are the same attributes that make him less suited to life as a family pet. (By the way, Charlie Machete is still available to become YOUR family pet.)