Search no more, you’ll want to read ‘Hero Dogs’

You felt like such a loser.

It was a feeling that didn’t last long, only long enough to ruin your day until you realized that one moment isn’t forever. Nope, you’re not a loser and in the new book “Hero Dogs” by Wilma Melville with Paul Lobo, neither are these elite canines.

They started as an idea from the ashes of disaster.

When Wilma Melville saw Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building on that spring morning in 1995, she was stunned. Debris was everywhere, which meant that odors were, too. Her search and rescue (SAR) dog, Murphy, was capable of finding any possible survivors but as the task continued, Melville clearly saw that America needed more SAR teams.

She vowed right then to train 168 SAR dogs, one for each Oklahoma Bombing victim.

It wouldn’t be as easy as picking out a puppy somewhere.

Melville decided that her target trainees would be unwanted former strays and rescue dogs. The nature of SAR demanded that ideal candidates be younger, in top physical shape, and have an extremely high prey drive; those that didn’t make the cut would be adopted out or trained for other work. Finally, SAR dogs had to possess an ability to work closely with their handlers, the first of which were firemen because firemen, says Melville, completely understand the kinds of the disasters for which dogs would be deployed.

Following her instincts and led by her promises, Melville found her first three trainees, “a rejected guide dog, an abused stray, and a washed-out competition dog.” She took them to a co-visionary, a woman who was “something of a legend in dog-training circles,” and within months — much faster than anyone thought possible — Ana, Dusty, and Harley passed their FEMA tests, followed by Zack and Billy, Abby and Ace, more handlers and more dogs. Melville’s brainchild, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) was ready for any emergency.

And that included September 11, 2001.

Your dog knows how to sit, shake-paws, and stay when told. He might even hunt or retrieve but you ain’t seen nuthin’ until you’ve read “Hero Dogs.”

And if dogs aren’t reason enough to want this book, there’s this: don’t be surprised if your emotions surface when you least expect it. Authors Wilma Melville and Paul Lobo, tell a tale of despair that turns into the biggest success possible on many levels, but they do it in a way that gives readers the feeling that we’ve got a stake in the outcome. Her pups become our pups, and by time Melville’s “misfit” dogs make her proud, we are, too. When they’re goofy, we laugh along with her; we also grieve at failures. This makes the story even more compelling; it doesn’t hurt that Melville and Lobo know how to heighten suspense better than any novelist could.

And so, your search for something to read this weekend ends right here. It’s got action, adventure, and warm fur on four feet. For dog lovers or anybody who loves a heroic story, “Hero Dogs” is a winner.

More in Life

Turn off the screens and head into Covington

Chamber, city and the school district work together to get kids outside

This time of year, it’s all about the harvest

The fourth week of August is time to reset for the coming… Continue reading

Couples tried on costumes for fun selfies at the 2019 Covington Sausage and Cider Fest.
Pour Covington another

Residents enjoy annual Covington Sausage and Cider Fest

Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in a neighborhood near you. You can read more of her writing on her website livingwithgleigh.com. To see her columns come to life, follow her on Facebook at Living with Gleigh by Gretchen Leigh.
Pulling the right strings

What would we do these days without Father Google to teach us how to manage life’s challenges?

Gardeners love our veggie-friendly Western Washington climate

Here are the most incredible edibles to grow now.

Always and forever

With the exception of my blackberry meltdown last week, I have finally… Continue reading

In May, Kentlake High School will present several performances of the ABBA-inspired musical “Mamma Mia!” Courtesy photo
Upcoming events: Kentlake presents ‘Mamma Mia!’

Also on tap: Greater Maple Valley Unincorporated Area Council will meet about water issues.

Fishing boats sit on the shore of Lake Wilderness during the Hooked On Fishing Derby. Photo by Kayse Angel
The 2019 Hooked On Fishing Derby

The derby took place at Lake Wilderness in Maple Valley over the weekend

Maple Valley wood carver creates chainsaw art

Ken Gruenes spends his retired days creating art out of tree stumps with his chainsaw.

Hunter Coffman and his family pose with Stitch in Hawaii. One of Hunter’s dreams was to meet Stitch and it was mad possible because of community support. Submitted photo from Laura Coffman
Hunter’s legacy lives on

Laura and Atom Coffman from Maple Valley started a nonprofit in honor of their son who passed away last year to cancer.

I can always grow blackberries

Blackberries are considered an invasive species in United States, because they are… Continue reading

Lake Wilderness Easter Egg Hunt

The egg hunt took place on Saturday, April 20.