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True Search and Rescue Stories: Scent of the Missing

Updated on September 13, 2015
A true search and rescue story
A true search and rescue story | Source

K9 SAR -- A Search Dog and Her Human Partner

As a Search and Rescue volunteer, I'm very interested in all aspects of SAR, including the fascinating world of K9 search. I myself am not a SAR dog handler, but I do work with the handlers on our own team, accompanying them into the field during missions, taking care of the navigation and radio communication while the handler concentrates on his or her canine partner/s.

So, given my interest in canine SAR, I've enjoyed several books on the subject, including Scent of the Missing: Love & Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog. This is the story of author Susannah Charleson's special relationship and adventures with her own search dog, a Golden Retriever named Puzzle, as together they look for the lost, including a missing teenager, an Alzheimer's patient wandering in the cold, and signs of the crew amid the debris of the space shuttle Columbia disaster.

The book tracks Puzzle's progress from her earliest air-scenting lessons as a puppy to her mastery of "whole-body dialog." Over the years of training and missions, Susannah and Puzzle learn to read clues in the field and in each other--"to accomplish together the critical work neither could do alone and to unravel the mystery of the human/canine bond." (Amazon)

If you have, please let us know what you thought of the book in the comments section after answering the poll.

Have You Read "Scent of the Missing"?

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Video: Meet Susannah and her Search and Rescue dog, Puzzle

About The Author: Susannah Charleson

Susannah Charleson is a member of MARK-9, a canine search and rescue team based in Dallas, Texas. Flying SAR and crime scene photography for local law enforcement led Susannah, a flight instructor and commercial pilot, to join the team.

Among Susannah's SAR-related research interests are coordinated air/ground search procedure, the behavior of Alzheimers' walkaways and rescue strategies for those with dementia, and animal behavior as clue detection in the search environment. She teaches GPS navigation, media interaction, and some specialty courses for the team. She is also MARK-9's media liaison.

Scent of the Missing is Susannah's first book.

Visit the author's website at

You can read a Question & Answer interview with author Susannah Charleson on Amazon. The interview begins:

Q: Scent of the Missing follows the relationship between you and your search dog from her puppyhood to eighteen months of age and her first search. How does your relationship now differ from the one you had with her then?

A: Puzzle is five and a half now. Though we had several hundred training searches together in the period covered in the book, we've had easily double that now. I have a lot more trust in her bond with me. She works pretty much exclusively off lead, and I no longer wonder if she'd abandon a search, run away from me to chase her own interests, or anything like that, as I did when she was very young. During her puppyhood, Puzzle was always interested in search work and joyful about finding people, but she seemed to regard me as an unnecessary chaperone for a job she'd do better alone.

As she matured, Puzzle seemed to recognize that part of her job was to work with me, to communicate with me, to insist when I'd missed some signal from her--and she seems to find joy in that part of the job too.

Read the rest of the interview with the author.

Pick Up A Copy Of "Scent of the Missing"

Learn More About Puzzle and K9 SAR

Read reviews, view photos, and read news from the search field on the

Scent of the Missing website.

Other Recommended Books About Search and Rescue Dogs

First a book I read and loved....

Caroline Hebard and her Search and Rescue Dogs

Caroline Hebard was a pioneer in the field of K-9 Search and Rescue and one of the first American dog handlers to participate in international disaster aid. I truly fell in love with her dogs while reading this book, particularly Zibo with whom Caroline had a very special bond. Zibo saved Caroline's life as well as the lives of many lost and injured souls. These dogs are heroes, no doubt about it.

Training the K9 Hero

From the devastation of the World Trade Center to earthquakes in Central Asia, search and rescue dogs have proven invaluable in helping to find victims of both man-made and natural disasters.

First published in 1991, this expanded edition describes cutting-edge training techniques used for wilderness, disaster, and cadaver dogs and water searches, and by state and federal disaster organizations such as FEMA.

In this book, you'll also find:

* Step-by-step lessons on training your dog for a variety of search and rescue operations;
* Ways to keep your dog and yourself safe in the face of disaster;
* Practical information on procedures and equipment for dogs, handlers, and other human volunteers;
* The ultimate experience of the interdependence of human and dog.

This book includes many photographs illustrating real-life missions, including images of Ground Zero and the Pentagon taken by ARDA volunteers after September 11, 2001.

A Tribute to America's Search and Rescue Dogs

Read about canine heroes from 9/11.

This is an oversized pictorial book which profiles various Search and Rescue canines, with photos on every page showing them at work as well as comments from the owners describing the dogs and what they did during the missions. Many individuals mention how difficult it was for the animals not to find survivors, but their presence was a great comfort for the many firefighters and other rescue workers on the scene.

Besides searching at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, dogs were used to locate remains at the Fresh Kills Landfill site. The book also has information about dog search and rescue and FEMA certification.

True Stories About Amazing SAR Dogs

This book covers difficult training exercises and heroic real-life stories of search and rescue dogs, their handlers, and their amazing teamwork. Among the incredible true stories are that of a disaster search and rescue dog who leaps from a metal beam to concrete slab while trying to locate an earthquake victim trapped beneath the rubble of a fallen building; a group of children lost in the forest who are saved by a wilderness search and rescue canine; and a snow slide that buries a young mother, until an avalanche dog comes to her rescue.

© 2010 Deb Kingsbury

Your Feedback About "Scent of the Missing" or SAR K-9s in General

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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      8 years ago from Canada

      I am very fascinated by how K-9 units are able to perform the many life saving functions that they do. We really are very dependent upon the other creatures which inhabit this planet with us and rightfully so. They deserve our deepest respect and admiration.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Loved your tribute to the book. A must read for me now.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      10 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      I enjoy books about the relationships of people and their dogs, so will certainly be adding to my "to read" list.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image


      10 years ago

      I have not read this book, but working/ helping dogs are a fascinating subject.


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