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Service dogs do more than help the blind

Timmy’s in the well.

And it’s a good thing your good-natured dog isn’t in charge of rescue. He doesn’t know anybody named Timmy, has no clue what a well is, and besides, he’s got his rawhide. Timmy’s in the well, he seems to say. Well, so what?

Yep, your dog has a one-track mind, one thing at a time. So wouldn’t you be surprised at what else he can do? In the new book “The Possibility Dogs” by Susannah Charleson, you’ll see his hidden potential.

As the human half of a Search-and-Rescue team, Susannah Charleson knows what it takes to teach a dog an important task. Using the innate talents and personality of her golden retriever, Puzzle, Charleson taught her girl to find lost or injured people.

So when Charleson met a man with a “psych dog” (a service dog for someone suffering psychiatric disorders), she was intrigued. Most everybody knows about guide dogs and hearing-assistance dogs, but what kind of canine Einstein would it take to help a person whose disabilities weren’t quite as visible?

With the encouragement of her extended pool of contacts, Charleson decided to find out. She already had a houseful (two cats, Puzzle, and a small herd of Pomeranians), but she began to search for the perfect-personality puppy — which arrived unexpectedly when a neighbor who knew about Charleson’s love of dogs hastily dropped off an emaciated, terribly sick, half-starved puppy at her Dallas-area doorstep.

Could this little guy be like Haska, who helps her person withstand PTSD? Would he be like Merlin, who assisted both father and son to overcome disabilities? Could the puppy be like Annie, who gives a teacher control over OCD; or like Juice Box, who helped his partner deal with depression and social problems? Could the puppy she named Jake Piper someday assist with loneliness, fear, illness, or isolation?

Or would he be just a dog — cherished, pampered and special only in the eyes of his human?

Charleson wasn’t sure if the little guy would be trainable, or even if he’d live. One thing was sure, though she was going to give him every possible chance…

Take a look at the cover of this book. Who could resist a face like that, huh? Not author Susannah Charleson, and in this wonderful book, you’ll meet that boy, and others — but don’t think that the potential in “The Possibility Dogs” is only canine.

Through interviews and personal experiences, Charleson shows how these highly-trained (though very intuitive) dogs can make an amazing difference in the lives of people who might have otherwise had to suffer at home, in silence. Those stories will touch your heart, and they might spur you to think about finding your own dog to raise or help. To that end, Charleson offers subtle advice with her addicting tales.

This slice-of-life is about dogs that nobody initially wanted — but if you’re a pet lover or are interested in service dogs, you’ll definitely want this book, so fetch “The Possibility Dogs.” It’s a story you’ll like very well.

“The Possibility Dogs” by Susannah Charleson, c.2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27.00 / $33.95 Canada, 260 pages.

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