Since starting this blog and my foray into the World of Dogs two years ago, I have been struck by a particular reality again and again: We do a lot for dogs, but dogs do so much for us.
Nowhere is this truth more evident than in Susannah Charleson’s latest book, The Possibility Dogs.
In The Possibility Dogs, Charleson, a pilot and a search-and-rescue handler, recounts the many stories of dogs serving a more subtle purpose: dogs who act as psychiatric service dogs.
But even the phrase “psychiatric service dog” is relatively new. We’re all familiar with guide dogs for the blind and even therapy dogs who visit hospitals or nursing homes or schools. But a psychiatric service dog? What does that even mean?
Charleson shows us what it means with her truthful and sincere accounts of rescue dogs who showed great potential to serve as daily companions and aides to those with less recognizable issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety attacks, and so on. She works to evaluate rescue dogs who show potential to serve as service dogs for people with a wide range of issues.
Particularly moving is Charleson’s own account of her rescue Jake (the pup shown on the cover; more about him here). Jake was found as an abandoned and starving puppy near Charleson’s home. But through her careful attention and love (and the love shown from Charleson’s other dogs, particularly her golden retriever, Puzzle, who acted as a surrogate mother), the puppy began to grow and thrive — and show remarkable potential for service work. Jake was so clearly motivated to work with and near people. Today, he serves alongside Charleson, who uses him as a “demo dog” for her new nonprofit and for herself, as she has personally suffered symptoms of OCD and debilitating arthritis.
I liked that this book wasn’t all sappy stories. Charleson is a clear, controlled writer, and she plainly shares the ups and downs, both of her own experience and the experiences of others. These service dogs aren’t perfect, and living with and training them isn’t necessarily easy. But is it rewarding? Always.
As briefly mentioned above, Charleson has now also started an organization by the same name as her book, which aims to rescue and train dogs that show aptitude for service work and to serve as their public advocates. Be sure to check out the Possibility Dogs website for more information.
In short, I enjoyed the various narratives and success stories and the great, incomparable work that is being done by these dogs and by the people like Charleson who see so much potential in them. How heartening to be reminded of the enormous potential that exists in so many dogs, many of the dogs, perhaps, whose lonely faces greet ours in countless shelters and rescues. We have the ability to do so much for these dogs, and they clearly have the ability to do so much for us.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, but all expressed thoughts and opinions are exclusively my own.