Book Review: The DOG LOVER UNIT

Lessons in Courage from the World’s K9 Cops
by Rachel Rose    $26.99      336 pages
Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of S. Martin’s Press

If you are looking for a gift for the first responder in your life, The DOG LOVER UNIT might be it. It is a fascinating book about how dogs serve K9 teams around the world.

It describes the process from the very beginning – how they are bred, chosen as puppies, raised and trained by their humans, and then find their purpose.

Although this process is described primarily as a unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Rose travelled internationally in her research and found units which specialize in what they call “garbage dogs.” So Rachel Rose is the most unlikely person to have experienced this process so she could write an authentic book.

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Rose is a fellow at The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and Poet Laureate of Vancouver. Yet she spent five years “going to the dogs,” as she puts it, riding with training handlers in between bouts of poetry.

The DOG LOVER UNIT introduces us to the individual teams, the dogs and their handlers, who work to make this world a safer and more enjoyable place to live. Rose rode with Constable Noel and his dog Blackie they night they caught a violent criminal, and was part of the funeral of Constable Dave Ross, watching K9 Danny following the coffin.

It takes years of training for both the dog and its handler to graduate from the program. It’s a touch physical challenge. Rose spent weeks in the freezing cold Canadian wilderness, crashing through forest underbrush at top speed for hours, keeping up with a running dog in high-speed chases across the frozen western Rocky Mountains. She describes role playing a suspect while wearing a bite sleeve. But also, Rachel rode with a handler whose dog who found a lost young girl almost dead from exposure.

This book is more than an adventure book. In her travels Rose learned and discusses the role of K9 units, and that leads into the forces themselves. This brings up subjects such as the role of women in policing, diversity in police forces, and how different countries police their populations. “We are all connected, for better and for worse.” she writes. “How societies are policed tells us a great deal about their values.”

All in all it’s another great entry in the pantheon of books about the human-animal bond and how our canine companions teach us about ourselves.

 

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