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Extended Audio Sample Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog, by Susannah Charleson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,218 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Susannah Charleson Narrator: Susannah Charleson Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Susannah Charleson clipped a photo from the newspaper: an exhausted canine handler, face buried in the fur of his search-and-rescue dog. A dog lover and pilot with search experience herself, Susannah was so moved by the image that she decided to volunteer with a local canine team and soon discovered firsthand the long hours, nonexistent pay, and often heart-wrenching results they face.

Still she felt the call, and once she qualified to train a dog of her own, she adopted Puzzle, a strong, bright Golden Retriever puppy who exhibited unique aptitudes as a working dog but who was less interested in the role of compliant house pet. Puzzle’s willfulness and high drive, both assets in the field, challenged even Susannah, who had raised dogs for years.

Scent of the Missing is the story of Susannah and Puzzle’s adventures together and of the close relationship they forge as they search for the lost—a teen gone missing, an Alzheimer’s patient wandering in the cold, signs of the crew amid the debris of the space shuttle Columbia disaster. From the earliest air-scent lessons to her final mastery of whole-body dialog, Puzzle emerges as a fully collaborative partner in a noble enterprise that unfolds across the forests, plains, and cityscapes of the Southwest. Along the way, Susannah and Puzzle learn to read the clues in the field, and in each other, to accomplish together the critical work neither could do alone and to unravel the mystery of the human-canine bond.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Riveting…All dog lovers should read this book.”

    Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human

  • “In this celebration of the human-animal bond, a fascinating woman has written eloquently about her fascinating colleague, Puzzle. I loved this book.”

    Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

  • “In this haunting meditation on trust, hope and love, Charleson chronicles her work as a handler with Dallas’ canine search-and-rescue team. A mesmerizing close-up of dogs trained to sniff for human scent, the book also celebrates Charleson’s extraordinary partnership with Puzzle, her golden retriever. Whether describing finding a missing child in an air duct or searching for survivors amid the debris of the Columbia space shuttle, Charleson’s prose is palpably alive, showing how each job, like life, entails placing ‘one foot before another, hoping for good but prepared for grief, and following the dog ahead anyhow.’”

    People magazine

  • “In Scent of the Missing, Susannah Charleson writes an unforgettable memoir about her work as part of a team of SAR handlers and their dogs. When she makes the decision to get her own canine partner, Puzzle, a rambunctious, delightful, and very smart Golden Retriever pup enters her life. With singular wit, charm, and a deep understanding of dogs, Charleson’s story about Puzzle and their long road together toward a fully collaborative partnership is a revelation and a joy.”

    Bark magazine

  • “When a flight instructor volunteers with a canine Search and Rescue (SAR) team, it won’t be long until she trains a SAR dog of her own. Susannah Charleson’s narration of her own memoir is a fascinating account of both learning to work on a SAR team and learning to train her golden retriever, Puzzle. Charleson doesn’t flinch from describing her challenges in working with a high-drive puppy, whether those challenges result in happy success or frustrating fumbles with her very smart dog. Throughout, we hear in her voice her ability to remain calm and focused, with her eyes on the goal. Dog-loving listeners will instantly empathize with Charleson, and smile at her portrayals of Puzzle’s vocabulary.” 


  • “The unique dynamic between man and ‘man’s best friend’ is passionately explored…The honing of supreme nose-driven skills, trailing and tracking capability, rappelling from heights, water and fire rescues and human-remains detection are all key abilities for Puzzle, yet Charleson also had to train herself with equal determination. While the common threads of canine companionship and humane compassion run consistently through the book, the author wisely grounds her journey in reality, writing that SAR work is serious business and ‘not a hobby or a Sunday pastime.’ An inspiring collection of rescue tales ideal for dog lovers and armchair detectives.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Humans have long used dogs, with their remarkable scenting abilities, to find lost, injured, or dead people. However, recent tragedies and disasters—9/11, Hurricane Katrina—have brought search-and-rescue recovery to the forefront. Charleson introduces us to this world as she trains her dog Puzzle to work with Dallas’ elite Metro Area Rescue K9 unit. Interspersed with stories of such routine activities as housebreaking and walking on a leash are the hold-your-breath moments when the author describes actual rescue/recovery missions such as the shuttle Columbia explosion. Verdict: This memorable tribute to the dedication of these dog–handler teams is an essential read for dog lovers.”

    Library Journal

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by T Barber | 2/16/2014

    " I picked this up in an airport and read it on a flight to China. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Kat | 2/12/2014

    " LOVED this book! These are some seriously amazing people. And amazing dogs, too! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Ellen | 2/11/2014

    " Very enjoyable book. Talked about the choosing and training of a dog for search and rescue. How the author so closely watched her dog during training, she could tell from the different nose positions what kind of sniffing the dog was doing. Susannah talked about helping with the search for the remains of the astronauts from the space shuttle that blew up over Texas. She talked about the training of her dog, what went on in her household with her pet dogs. I did enjoy the story. Read it in 2 days. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Roberta | 1/19/2014

    " What a book....to choose and train a search and rescue dog and then do the job. Well worth the read. "

  • > Show All
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About the Author

Susannah Charleson is the author of the New York Times bestseller Scent of the Missing, as well as a flight instructor, service dog trainer, and canine search-and-rescue team member, who most recently began a nonprofit organization called the Possibility Dogs, which rescues, trains, and places dogs with people suffering “unseen” disabilities. She lives with her search partner, Puzzle, a golden retriever certified for the recovery of missing persons; a German shepherd-pit bull-Labrador retriever mix; as well as a rabble of Pomeranians, and a Skye terrier-chihuahua mix.