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Nonfiction Review: Hero Dogs by Wilma Melville and Paul Lobo

Title: Hero Dogs: How a Pack of Rescues, Rejects, and Strays Became America's Greatest Disaster Search Partners
Author: Wilma Melville and Paul Lobo
Year Published: 2019

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 335
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (CA, OK, NY, LA) and Haiti

FTC Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book for a fair review

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Ana and Hunter were failed service dogs. Recon was left for dead on the train tracks. Cody was returned to the shelter seven times before he turned two. To most, these dogs were unadoptable. Unsalvageable. Irredeemable. To retired gym teacher and grandma Wilma Melville, they were the heroes America needed.

While volunteering as a canine search-and-rescue handler during the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Wilma saw how ill-prepared the country was to respond to disasters. Then and there, beside her loyal Black Lab, Murphy, she made a pact, singlehandedly founding the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) and beginning a journey that would change the face of search-and-rescue in America forever.
But even Wilma could not predict how desperately her idea would soon be needed. With 9/11, the scope of disaster response in America changed in an instant, and people across the country realized how crucial these dogs were, launching the SDF to a national stage.
In this gripping, heart wrenching story, Wilma and writer Paul Lobo trace the paths of the amazing animals, firefighters, and volunteers who brought Wilma's dream to fruition. They recount struggles and triumphs as the dogs and their handlers face off with hurricanes, bombings, and other staggering disasters. Along the way, we witness the unshakeable bonds that develop between humans and these remarkable dogs.

Review: I love dog stories and this book was wonderful! I read it in two sittings, staying up way past my bed time so that I could read more. Wilma Melville's grit and determination to create a search and rescue dog non-profit was super interesting (and I learned she lives only 30 minutes away from me!), but once she began telling stories of the dogs and the handlers I was hooked.

I did a fair amount of crying while reading this book because I am a sucker for a sappy and happy story. Melville only uses strays and rescue dogs in her work so there are lots of great stories about finding dogs no one else wanted and turning them into searching machines. I also really liked the stories of matching the dogs with their handlers and found myself smiling and laughing at the stories.

Reading about the experiences of her teams in Oklahoma at the Federal Building site, in New York on 9/11, in New Orleans after Katrina, and in Santa Barbara for our own fire and debris flow last winter was intense, interesting, and inspirational.

The non-profit has a wonderful website and you can imagine the emotions I felt when I got to the page about the dogs and handlers and their work in my town last January. I remember watching them in action, appreciating their work, and hoping they would find survivors. 

Challenges for which this counts: 

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