I admit it. Somehow, I missed the début of “What The Dog Knows” entirely. I finally found it on the New Arrival shelf at the Library. What that means is this: I am forced to write a review following luminaries of the Dog world that undertake book reviews regularly. People whose names you’d recognize… Is there anything for me to add, something that others missed?
Fortunately for me, I believe that the 13 other reviews I’ve read have missed something subtle hidden inside Warrens’ first book. Something profound. The book contains a concise and fascinating history of the Cadaver Dog, and it’s development. That history, in and of itself, would make “What The Dog Knows” worth buying and reading. It could in fact, have been written as a separate book, and been equally worthy of praise. But the true strength of Cat Warren’s story is found in the growth that she and her German Shepherd “Solo” go thru together.
Cat Warren is an Academic, in fact she is a Professor of Journalism/Editing at North Carolina State University. She speaks the language of academie’, and has an extensive resume’ revealing how she came to this achievement. But there’s another voice that is revealed throughout the writing. A voice that leaves pure “scholarly training” behind and pursues the behavior of dogs from a more esoteric angle. Early in her dog training, she has trouble with the working personality of a young German Shepherd. So she retreats to “science” for help. She states this quote from page 8: “The little bastard–I would shape and mold him with clicks and patience and treats until he was dog putty.” She soon seeks the help of Nancy Hooks, a wonderful trainer that changes the path of their training, and the technique that they used. “Stop chattering at him.” Nancy instructs. ” And stop giving him so many treats. You’re turning him into a wuss.” And something wonderful happens…A Cadaver Team begins its life. (Nancy appears throughout the story. You’ll wish she was YOUR trainer. Or better yet, your friend.)
Finally, what I feel is the pivotal point for Cat and Solo arrives on page 79. While training with Canadian Trainer Kevin George, she has an epiphany about what her dog needs in his training. Kevin uses a unique method in his program, and Cat is having problems mastering it. Without my telling the story to you, (READ THE BOOK!!) I’ll quote what Cat herself writes. “I didn’t know how to keep things magical in my early days with Solo. I was just trying to follow basic directions.” From this point on, a Dog Handler is born, and a Cadaver Dog is allowed his natural ability.
Once the pair become involved with law enforcement k9 handlers, the learning curve is steep, and the Academic changes from linen suits to hiking boots. Not that the changes are sudden. But Cat and Solo begin to gain confidence in themselves, and in each other. They make mistakes, they have successes, they work both out together. One other mentor plays a huge role in the story and deserves recognition. Mike Baker, the head of the K-9 unit in Durham, North Carolina, is a major contributor and supporter of Cat and her partner. His ability and willingness to help the team are notable, and thoroughly professional. God Grant every Handler such a Mentor… You will thoroughly enjoy reading about Officer Baker…
“What the Dog Knows” has so much to offer to Handlers, Trainers, and dog people in general. A full reporting of the stories here would rob you of the roller-coaster of emotions that Cat and Solo experience, and I want you to experience them for yourself. Warren is obviously a very skilled and entertaining writer, while never writing down to anyone from a high post. You will truly like Cat Warren as she reveals herself in the book, and you’ll feel her pride in her partner “Solo”.
What you’ll gain from a reading of “What The Dog Knows” is simple. As a Trainer or Handler, you’ll learn to let the dog do his job and focus on your human handling skills. As a dog owner, you will learn that training your dog requires flexibility and willingness to think outside the box, for the benefit of the dog.
Finally, thru the book, Cat continues to call herself a “Hobbyist” in the K9 world. Some may think, “What can I possibly learn from a person that does HRD work as a HOBBY?” Plenty of those that today claim to be Professional Handlers, spend a lot of time at meetings, and BBQ’s wearing matching t-shirts and talking about Search & Rescue. Cat Warren is one “Hobbyist” that has more muddy bootprints behind her, more filthy, mud-caked, clothing hanging from a fence than she can remember. Read “What The Dog Knows”, confident that you are learning from someone who has really been there, and deserves the title, “Professional Dog-Handler”.