This remarkable tribute to working dogs opens with a gallery of photos of the 21 dogs profiled in the book. From the Newfoundland Mas, Italy’s premier water rescue dog, to Tammy, a South African Border Collie protecting rare marine animals, Dogs with Jobs visits working canines in the US, Canada, Europe, Guam, Africa, England, and Australia to laud the performances of purebred and mixed breed dogs in both common and obscure jobs. Along with the sheep-herders, search and rescue dogs, and police dogs, the book profiles Snooper, a beagle who sniffs out termites; Buster, an Australian Cattle Dog who herds cattle; Wolf, a performing Borzoi; Kavik, a wolfdog movie and television star; Elmer, an Iditarod sled dog; Flintis, an Anatolian Shepherd who guard sheep and cheetahs; and Yanka and King, German Shepherds who sniff out land mines in Bosnia.
The authors introduce their homage to working dogs with a quick look at the senses that make man’s best friend a capable working partner. Understanding the canine characteristics that make one dog a good search and rescue dog and another an ideal flock guardian enhances human knowledge and appreciation of these extraordinary animals.
Noting that a dog’s sense of smell and hearing are far superior to man’s, they relate each sense to a particular talent that gives dogs a unique ability to aid man in a variety of endeavors. “Dogs can track a scent through snow, air, mud, water, and even ash” because every person and animal gives off scent particles. Because their sense of smell is so acute, dogs can also be trained to find a plethora of inanimate objects from bombs, fire accelerants, and mines to drugs and other contraband.
Although not as important to the dog as the sense of smell, hearing and eyesight contribute to canine careers. Dogs can hear the softest whisper from an owner, the change in voice pitch of a shepherd, or the slightest rustle of leaves that signals approach of an intruder.
Although they do not see fine detail well, dog eyes are quick to perceive motion, have a broad field of vision, and can see better at night than humans can.
Pack, prey, defense, and flight drives play a part in a dog’s adaptation to various jobs. Strong prey instinct is necessary for police dogs, detection dogs, hunting dogs, and herders, while a strong defense drive is necessary for guard dogs. Dogs with strong pack drives are well-suited for work as search and rescue dogs and service dogs for their highest pleasure is working with someone who will pet and play with them. Dogs with high flight drive are poor candidates for any type of work. The book is divided into sections: Search and Rescue and Detection Dogs; Herding Dogs; Performance Dogs; Sled Dogs; Service Dogs; and Eco Dogs that protect the environment.
Each profile includes a story about the dog and handler as well as some background about the job. For example, the profile about Flintis, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog who guards sheep in Namibia, Africa, includes a bit about why the breed was chosen for the job, how using flock guardians protects endangered cheetahs, and a battle between Flintis and a troop of baboons. The story about Mas, the Newfoundland search and rescue dog, tells about the history of the Newfoundland breed and the development of Italy’s water search training program as well as the feats of Mas, the dog with water rescue certificates from France, Switzerland, and Italy.
Perhaps the most unusual dog job is featured in the last profile in the book – the story of Tammy, the Border Collie who sniffs out contraband abalone on fishing boats. Abalone is an endangered shellfish gathered off the coast of South Africa and traded against international endangered species regulations; Tammy’s keen nose has resulted in many arrests of abalone smugglers, a success that resulted in death threats. To protect her, the marine protection unit gave her a personal guardian, a German Shepherd named Mac, a trained police attack dog with years of experience against drug dealers. Now Tammy finds the contraband abalone and Mac chases down and subdues the poachers.
Dogs with jobs is a remarkable book sure to warm the heart of all dog owners, fanciers, and admirers. The simple, straightforward presentation shines a bright light on the wonderful relationship that develops between individuals of two different species for the benefit of both. A book for families to share, it is a joy to read for adults, teenagers, and children alike
Dogs With Jobs : Working Dogs Around the World by Merrily Weisbord and Kim Kachanofe DVM; Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, New York; hardcover, 250 pages, $24.95.
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