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Publisher's Summary

From two-time National Book Award nominee Melissa Fay Greene comes a profound and surprising account of dogs on the front lines of rescuing both children and adults from the trenches of grief; emotional, physical, and cognitive disability; and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Underdogs tells the story of Karen Shirk, felled at age 24 by a neuromuscular disease and facing life as a ventilator-dependent, immobile patient, who was turned down by every service dog agency in the country because she was "too disabled". Her nurse encouraged her to tone down the suicidal thoughts, find a puppy, and raise her own service dog. Karen did this, and Ben, a German shepherd, dragged her back into life. "How many people are stranded like I was?" she wondered. "Who would lead productive lives if only they had dogs?"

A thousand state-of-the-art dogs later, Karen Shirk's service dog academy, 4 Paws for Ability, is restoring broken children and their families to life. Long shunned by scientists as a man-made, synthetic species, and oft referred to as "man's best friend" almost patronizingly, dogs are finally paid respectful attention by a new generation of neuroscientists and animal behaviorists. Melissa Fay Greene weaves the latest scientific discoveries about our coevolution with dogs with Karen's story and a few exquisitely rendered stories of suffering children and their heartbroken families.

Written with characteristic insight, humanity, humor, and irrepressible joy, what could have been merely touching is a penetrating, compassionate exploration of larger questions: about our attachment to dogs, what constitutes a productive life, and what can be accomplished with unconditional love.

©2016 Melissa Fay Greene (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

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Too slow paced for me

I read many dog related books. And I hv a science bkgd. I had to quit this one. Tedious. And singsong narration not appealing, sorry.

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Another win

Ms Greene has a way of finding (and relating) the heart of her subjects. This book is so heartwarming and informative. Weirdly though, there are lots of lists that seemed to be overly inclusive, like an attempt to meet a minimum word requirement. The book is still a great read and the narration is excellent.

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Good reference book to know how disabilities affec

Dogs do make our lives Bette. But service dogs go further and help disabled people and their families to get more chances of getting a more normal approach to life. I wish I could find specific books on how to train them. This one shares life experiences

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Too Boring for Words

I tried really hard to stay with this book. But the reader took a story that should have evoked multiple emotions in me, and made it so dull and boring I gave up after 40 minutes. That is, after 40 minutes the second time I tried.