Red Dog Rising
I once owned a single-minded English Springer Spaniel that had a great nose and loved to use it (albeit on his terms, not mine)for locating things that only a dog would love. He would venture forth with me into the woods, running well ahead of me and happily following an invisible trail of doggy-delectable air molecules and come back sometimes covered in burrs, or with the slime of a barely liguified puddle or (once) someone's exposed septic field. We also played a great game of hide and seek, me being the quarry and him being the hunter. I usually had to pay off with a cookie if I was found. I can't remember a game where he ever did not find me. Quickly. All of this, while fun (for him, mostly)was just play without discipline or training. Years later, I discovered "Red Dog Rising" by Jeff Schettler, and found in it the same love for life and for scent locating, this time belonging to a police K9 officer named Ronin, a Bloodhound, and his master/partner, Schettler. It turns out that what we were playing at is something the pros-- both canine and human-- can and do spend a lifetime developing.
In the book, Schettler spends some time explaining the difference between trailing and tracking. It's an important distinction, because a dog that trails its quarry is emulating the way that related wild animals, such as coyotes or wolves, pursue prey. Tracking is a more human-imposed method of assuming that the scent of the quarry lies on the ground in a path that can be followed. Trailing allows a dog to use its own innate logic and senses to most directly get to the thing or person being sought. Although sometimes the description of how training a dog to trail the origin of a scent can become a bit technical, it is still interesting and educational, and does not overwhelm.
The book is well written and Schettler does not cut corners on his and Ronin's memoirs, which sometimes takes the reader on a trail of its own. Not every story delivers a punch line, but they're all real, if not interesting,and since Schettler and Ronin share an obvious bond and affection, the seriousness and gravity of some the searches are balanced with levity and love. These are the good guys, and there is enough excitement mixed in to Schettler's narrative to make this book well worth the time, especially if you are, like me, a lover of large, slightly crazy dogs who love cookies and fighting crime.