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Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-And-Rescue Dog

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  4,208 ratings  ·  541 reviews

An unforgettable memoir from a search-and-rescue pilot and her spirited canine partner

In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Susannah Charleson clipped a photo from the newspaper of an exhausted canine handler, face buried in the fur of his search-and-rescue dog. A dog lover and pilot with search experience herself, Susannah was so moved by the image that she decid

Hardcover, 285 pages
Published April 14th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin (first published January 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Stephanie Fitzgerald
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adult dog-lovers
I love reading books about service dogs and the amazing work they do! The author, a service dog handler herself, reveals in much detail just how much effort must be put forth by the dogs and humans in search-and-rescue situations. There is no sugar-coating; the author is very honest in all of her stories, including the ones that don’t always have happy endings.
The best parts for me were the “adventures” Susannah Charleston had in training her service dog Puzzle starting from puppyhood. Definite
Apr 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've always admired working dogs (from a distance) and their human partners. I'd heard about Scent of the Missing. from friends, and picked it up to find out what they saw in it. And I saw it too. Dogs (and cats and other pets) are NOT just small humans, and treating them as such degrades both the animal and the human. Susannah Charleson does not fall into this trap (which admittedly puts books on the Best Seller list). Ms. Charleson accepts her companions (dogs and cats) on their own terms. She ...more
Jun 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book about a dog that hasn't made me cry and I get teary while reading most dog books. This is a fearless look at life and what happens when you decide to help other people. Susannah Charleston doesn't mention how she really earns a living and pays for all that dog food, but you get the feeling that she would scrub floors to keep her rescue dogs well fed and in good health. Yes, she has a search and rescue dog and several cute little Poms that she has taken in as well. The stor ...more
The writing was pretty good as was the reading, both done by the author, although both could slow down. Sometimes they'd both be at a low point & then it was a chore to keep going, but generally it was interesting. I've never read another about Search & Rescue (SAR).

She does a great job showing that search & rescue is very important work, but the ratio of time invested to time worked is very low. Both parts of the team train for years to get certified. They get called out several to a dozen time
 Li'l Owl
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I loved this! A must for all animal lovers. I highly recommend this book to everyone, even to those who haven't yet discovered that they, too, may be fans of dogs.
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have both read the book, and listened to the audio version, which was read by the author. Her voice is very pleasant and expressive, and one does not tire of hearing her. I loved reading the book. Her prose is delightful. I enjoyed re-reading lines and savoring them.

The book itself is a gem. I loved reading it. Her prose is delightful. I enjoyed re-reading lines and savoring them. She teaches so much about work that I had only a glancing knowledge of before, and she informs us about very exact
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
One of my favorite romance novels, The Search, features Search and Rescue dogs and their handlers so I decided to read a non fiction on the subject. Ms. Charleson blends dog training, dog antics, and autobiography for a short, largely uplifting, read.

Some of the glimpses into her search and rescue missions were hard to read for different reason. Sometimes they find nothing and never know what happened, sometimes communities work against them, and sometimes they wish they hadn't found the missing
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"Our flight a nervous little shriek. I feel sure the young woman saw the puppy come aboard, but now Puzzle sleeps upside down in my arms, her round belly upward, feet akimbo, head limp and tilted backward toward the aisle. Gravity has pulled down the puppy's ears and lips and bared her fangs. Her eyes are open buy unseeing, rolled up in her head with the whites exposed. It's not a good look. It's not even canine -- more Hell-Spawn Bunny of the Undead.

"It's a puppy," says my sea
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Apr 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: dog lovers
Recommended to Susan (aka Just My Op) by: Tara Chevrestt
Shelves: arc-edition, animals
3 1/2 stars. This is a story of Search and Rescue dogs but also of life with a golden retriever puppy named Puzzle who is being trained for SAR work, of living in a household full of rescued Pomeranians, and of all the training that goes into making a successful SAR dog and handler. There are also sad stories about why some of the author's rescued dogs needed to be rescued in the first place, and it never fails to amaze me how thoughtless and cruel people can be at their worst.

On the flight home
Tara Chevrestt
There were parts of this book I really liked, the rescues and the way the author injects humor in the middle of what sometimes seems like endless paragraphs of information. There were also parts that really bored me, namely the endless paragraphs mentioned above regarding training and technical stuff. Being a dog mom myself, I didn't find the training particularily interesting. The eating of chairs, the car sickness, the dog fights, I've been there!

The author strays from the subject too often,
Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile
This book was ok. It was good, but the writing tended to be discordant and jumped around in time, which caused my interest to wane. On the other hand, the work these people do is so absolutely admirable. I wish I had the time to do something so rewarding. I wish the author and Puzzle all the best!
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Well written and interesting.
JG (Introverted Reader)
Susannah Charleson sort of fell into search-and-rescue. After volunteering as an assistant for her local search-and-rescue team, she eventually received approval to train a dog of her own. After a prolonged nation-wide search, the Golden Retriever Puzzle landed in her lap.

I'm not a huge non-fiction reader. Let's take a peek at my shelves, shall we? Let's see.... I've labeled 1252 read books as fiction and 129 as non-fiction. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the true stories.

Yet I was drawn to the sto
Linda C
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2012
This was a sweet, easy read. Good book for animal lovers, especially dog people. Charleson does an excellent job of getting inside the head of the animals. Unfortunately, she used less skill when writing about people, including herself.

While I felt like I knew her dog Puzzle very well, I didn't feel like I knew her at all. It was unclear what she did for a living (she was a pilot, but she didn't seem to be working all that much), why she did search and rescue, even who was in her personal life.
Eva Leger
I've very happy I happened to see this in the 'new' section at my local library. That being said, it's not the best book in the world. I can read about dogs - most animals even - all day long. I love animals, especially dogs, with a passion. I've long knew they were far more intelligent than the average person gives them credit for.
Search and rescue dogs go beyond even this. It's absolutely amazing what these dogs are capable of. The writing that pertains to the training is very, very interestin
Jul 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Finally an author who can write with a dog story worth telling has come along! In Scent of the Missing Susannah Charleson illuminates the often romanticized, but little known world of search and rescue dogs. She starts with her own introduction to the SAR, as a field assistant and finishes the book with an accounting of the training of her own SAR dog, Puzzle. If you are expecting sappy, feel-good accounts of rescues you may be disappointed. Susannah tells it like it is including the disappointm
Aug 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't believe I can adequately review this book without disclosing the surprises. I encourage you to read this book. So well worth it. I especially liked the way the author could describe a dog as their breed and the individual personality of each. The close bond is so strong with the working pairs. Please read this book.
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent memoir from a search and rescue trainer. A good mix of informing the reader about the use and training of search and rescue dogs while sharing the joys and foibles of raising a working dog and being a human. The author is a very engaging reader of her own book in the audio version.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So heartwarming and beautiful. Good for the soul.
Mar 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, nonfiction, 2010, ajpl, crime
I remember once, years ago, walking to an Arizona Cardinals game with my father. It was a late, golden afternoon; I was young and I more than likely had a book clutched in my hands to read during the boring parts of the game. Along the pedestrian route to the stadium, police officers were directing traffic and keeping people in line. Several of them were on horses, massive brown and black animals with their own kind of uniform. I was utterly fascinated by the horses, even though I wasn't allowed ...more
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love books that make me learn something about the world that I never would have thought about before. Scent of the Missing: Love & Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog is just such a book. Susannah Charleson chronicles her time learning the ropes with a canine search-and-rescue team, the trials and joys she had training her own future search-and-rescue dog, and giving us some insight into how these dogs really work.

I learned that most canine search-and-rescue units are made up of volunteer
Mt. Kisco Library
When flight instructor Susannah Charleson saw a picture of a canine handler drooped in exhaustion with his search and rescue dog at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing, she knew that she had to volunteer to become a part of the experience of helping to find the missing. And, due to her empathetic and insightful writing skills, readers can become part of this experience too. In this compelling memoir, which is partly anecdotal and partly informational, she recounts her experiences in her search ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals
If you know nothing at all about the care and training of a search and rescue dog (as I did -- or rather didn't), then when you finish this book, you will. That's not as trite a statement as it sounds, because the fact that this book stayed true to it's title and didn't veer off course into barely related anecdotes is one of the reasons for it's four star rating. The author describes how she decided to become an owner/handler/trainer for a search and rescue dog, the process of choosing a dog, an ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review is of the audio book. Charleson's vivid, engaging, and even at times poetic prose limns a challenging but rewarding relationship with her new search dog, Puzzle. A golden retriever with all the puppy problems inherent to that breed, she must teach the pup all the usual skills of living in a human world while both take on the harder tasks of learning how to perform search and rescue. Puzzle must learn to use her nose and tell her handler what she finds -- while knowing where and when ...more
Jul 27, 2010 rated it liked it
I am not that familiar with the search and rescue aspect involving dogs, so it was nice to get to learn about this field. Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog really made me appreciate the devotion and dedication that the men, women and dogs spend day after day searching for people. The word “quit” is not in their vocabulary.

I could relate to Susannah and Puzzle’s strong bond. I raised a guide dog for the blind and we got close. His name was Patriot and we rel
Carrie ♠
An incredible story about some very tough volunteers of the two-legged and four-legged varieties! This book is read by the writer, Susannah Charleson, who gives a wonderful insight into the lives of SAR (Search and Rescue) teams during the good times and not so good times. It is very clear from her descriptions just how caring a person she is, and just how in tune she is with not only Puzzle, but her other dogs she has fostered out and are permanent fixtures at home. I learned a lot about the ph ...more
Apr 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, have already read it twice. The writing is more than good, funny at times, and the narrative is well-balanced between the story of Puzzle and the process of training her, and the actual search and rescue work, both with and without Puzzle. I think the criticism that the reader doesn't necessarily find out the results of some of the searches is a bit misled, the story is about the partnership itself, and as the author states several times, when there is no resolution on some of ...more
Deborah D.
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic, fic-dog
This is a thoroughly enjoyable, interesting and informative book exploring a personal journey from small plane pilot to Search & Rescue work. One of the best aspects of the book is the absence of romanticism in regard to S&R work.

Glimpses of how her S&R organization works, the different dog\handler teams and the trust they have with each other. As Ms Charleson earns her stripes and becomes eligible to raise & train a potential canine partner. The time and training demands, let alone the callouts
Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
What an enjoyable read. Still, it was not what I expected. The determination and dedication of these people was driven home as the author detailed the intense and constant training they undergo juxtaposed with the difficult searches. There were very few heart-warming stories of success. Granted this is the very personal story of one dog and her woman, but nonetheless, I was surprised. This is an interesting peek behind the scenes of these dedicated volunteers.
-A second surprise came for me in t
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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 r ...more

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