The Underdogs

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A book review The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love by Melissa Fay Greene

A book review The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love by Melissa Fay Greene

Stars: ****

Ecco (2017)
352 pages

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Summary: THE UNDERDOGS tells the story of Karen Shirk: felled at age 24 by a neuromuscular disease and facing life as an immobile, deeply isolated and depressed, ventilator-dependent patient, she was rejected by every service dog agency in the country as “too disabled.” Her nurse encouraged her to raise her own service dog, and Ben, a German shepherd, dragged her back into life. “How many people are stranded like I was,” she wondered, “who could lead productive lives with a service dog?”

A thousand dogs later, Karen Shirk’s service dog academy, 4 Paws for Ability, is restoring broken children and their families to life. Melissa Fay Greene tells the stories of isolated children, struggling parents, and the marvelous dogs who gallop into their lives. Into these modern wonder tales, she weaves the latest scientific discoveries about the inner lives of dogs. It turns out that dogs really are doing the astounding things they appear to do, and they’re doing them for people they love. The frontiers of the human/dog bond are explored here with insight, compassion, humor, and joy. A cast of remarkable characters-scientists and felons, dog trainers and parents, children with disabilities and the great dogs themselves-together address questions about our attachment to dogs, what constitutes a productive life, and what can be accomplished with unconditional love.

The Underdogs

This was a beautiful book full of stories of families 4 Paws for Ability helped as well as the story of how it came to be. I found the order of the book to be a little confusing though. For example a chapter will tell the story of a child and his or her conditions. Then the next chapter goes to something else. The rest of the story where they reach out for an assistance dog and are matched with one is another chapter, many chapters later. To me they should be the same chapter or at least consecutive chapters.

At another part, a whole long story is given about two people who committed crimes and went to jail. Then the next chapter moves on to another topic completely. Many chapters later we are introduced to prisoners who train dogs and how that ties in to 4 Paws for Ability. Later still we are told that one of those original criminals/prisoners is helping with the dogs. I don’t think details of the crime was needed to tell this story.

If the order were fixed, the book would have been a 5 star book. It’s amazing what these dogs can do for these children. It’s not about seeing eye dogs or seizure dogs (mostly) but about dogs for conditions that previously didn’t have dogs trained for. Conditions such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, severe neurological conditions, Autism and kids who are connected to so much medical equipment you won’t believe it.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.