A Dog’s Devotion: True Adventures of a K9 Search and Rescue Team by Suzanne Elshult and James Guy Mansfield, 286 pgs., ISBN: 978-1-4930-6871-5, Published by Lyons Press, $28.95.
As a K9 SAR person with over 20 years in the field, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. What I found refreshing was that Ms. Elshult and Mr. Mansfield included the struggles that they encountered which seem to permeate the SAR community, such as personality differences, leadership conflicts, and gaining acceptance by non-SAR agencies.
The authors share with us some of the search missions that were especially meaningful to them including those for human remains. Ms. Elshult’s dog Keb, a yellow Labrador Retriever was successfully cross trained in both live detection and human remains. Unfortunately, many SAR people feel that a cross trained dog cannot perform reliably. I personally successfully cross trained all of my search dogs so I understand the struggles that she had.
The book is written in a non-emotional, almost report like manner where we are told the facts. The authors reactions to the situations that they faced are covered but not dramatized. However, we are told of all of the hardships and challenges that they faced and how they worked through them. Even though some of the searches involve looking for human remains, the writing style makes it safe for even the squeamish to read and enjoy.
The beauty of this book is that it clearly gives the reader a factual picture of what search and rescue involves, how searches are managed and decisions are made. Ms. Elshult’s love and admiration for her dog Keb is evident throughout the book and Keb is a good representation of what many search dogs are capable of and do throughout the world. While the searches take place in the Pacific Northwest forests, the dynamics apply to all searches.