Good Reading : November 2016
I’ve grown more comfortable working with the dead. With parts of them, really. A few teeth, a vertebra, a piece of carpet that lay underneath a body. One of my German shepherd’s standard training mater ials is dirt harvested from sites where decomposing bodies rested. Crack open a Mason jar filled with that dirt, and all I smell is North Carolina woods – musky darkness with a hint of mildewed alder leaves. Solo smells the departed. Solo is a cadaver dog. I occasionally get a call asking for our services when someone is missing and most likely dead. People have asked me if Solo gets depressed when he finds someone dead. No. Solo’s work – and his fun – begins with someone’s ending. Nothing makes him happier than a romp in a swamp looking for someone who has been missing for a while. For him, human death is a big game. To win, all he has to do is smell it, get as close as he can to it, tell me about it and then get his reward: playing tug-of-war with a rope toy. I never thought death could have an upside. I certainly never expected a dog to point that out to me. Since I started training and working with Solo eight years ago, he’s opened a new world to me. Sure, some of it is dark, but gradations of light filter through so much of it that I find it illuminates other spaces in my life. Solo and I have different reasons for doing this work. What appears to motivate him is not just the tug-toy reward at the end (although that pleases him greatly) but also the work itself, as he sweeps a field like a hyperactive Zamboni on ice, tracking will-o’-the-wisps of scent down to their source. What motivates me is watching Solo, a black-and-red shepherd with a big grin and a huge rudder of a tail. He captures the hidden world his nose knows and translates that arcane knowledge for us humans. As one of the K9 unit sergeants said, admiring Solo’s clear body language, ‘You can read that dog like a book.’ An easy book, happily, for a Recent research has revealed the astonishing capabilities of dogs. We know that they can help vision- impaired people, but they can also sniff out cancer and even help to locate missing people. C AT WARREN in What the Dog Knows recounts how she adopted an unruly German shepherd puppy, Solo, who is eventually trained to locate human corpses. BOOK BITE 1 BOOK BITE BOOK BITE 1 BOOK BITE 1 GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING NOVEMBER 2016 46 gradations of light filter through so much of it WHAT THE DOG KNOWS BY CAT WARREN I never thought death could have an upside.
December 2016 - January 2017