Friday, July 30, 2010

Susannah Charleson & Puzzle

Who is in the photo at right?

That's Puzzle, my golden retriever and search and rescue partner and I, Susannah Charleson, in the lobby of the Hotel Monaco, Denver.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I don't need many excuses to drink coffee, but this much-needed latte was consumed in the middle of the book tour for Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog, released in April 2010. Denver was our 13th stop of 23 cities in April/May, and we needed a quiet moment - and I needed the caffeine! I believe we'd already been to one book event when this was taken and were heading out to another about an hour later.

What's brewing?

This was a skim latte from Panzano, the northern Italian restaurant attached to the hotel.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

A very nice homemade biscotti. Historically, I've never liked dunking anything in anything. In fact, I've always been a bit grossed out by the idea of soggy cookie or doughnut bits in the bottom of milk or coffee, but here ... oh here ... I learned to love a biscotti damped by the foam of milk on the top of this latte. Proves you're never too old to change your mind.

Any treat for Puzzle on this occasion?

I shared with Puzzle! She likes a bit of crunchy, not-too-sweet biscotti now and again.

How were you and Puzzle united?

She was one of a litter of ten golden retriever puppies, most of them destined for working homes -- hunt, assist, guide, etc. She was the pup of the ten who tested best at six and ten weeks old for search and rescue. She came to me at ten weeks old, began training immediately, and was my certified working partner in the field before she was two years old. She's now six.

Please tell us about your new book with Puzzle.

Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) follows my journey with Puzzle -- from her puppyhood through certification tests and first search. It's a love-and-adventure story of how we came together as partners in the field and out of it. The book also includes individual searches that take readers into the field beside dog-and-handler teams looking for missing persons - from children thought to have run away to confused Alzheimer's patients to the astronauts of space shuttle Columbia.

How did Puzzle get her name? Does she have any aliases?

Since we search for missing children, I wanted a name a frightened child might know and associate with fun. Puzzle is easy to say (and easy for Puzzle to hear, when called), and kids always smile when they find out what her name is. I call her Poozle-woozle-woodle-doodle-streudel-noodle "for short."

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

She'll flush a squirrel now and then, but would never hurt one. Puzzle loves cats and has one of her own that she adopted as a kitten.

Tennis ball, Frisbee, squeaky-toy...?

Puz loves soft fuzzy toys and her favorites rotate. These days she particularly enjoys "sneaky snake," a two-headed stuffed snake that she likes to drag through the house.

Where is Puzzle's favorite outdoor destination?

Search-and-rescue training. Preferably near water.

Who is Puzzle's best pet-pal?

Thistle, her kitty, and there's a dog on the search team named Gypsy that is her BFF.

If Puzzle could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I wouldn't get up so early when we don't have to. Puz likes to sleep in when she can.

What is Puzzle's best quality?

She loves her job and is very good at it.

What is the most amusing thing Puzzle does? The most frustrating?

The silliest thing Puz does is "brag" after she makes a find at weekly search training with the team. When we come out of a sector and I clip her lead back on to walk to the resting area, she likes to take the lead in her mouth and walk herself back, crooning woo-woo-woo to everyone she passes and petitioning for pets, as though she's pretty sure she's hot stuff.

Puz isn't a very frustrating dog, but she is a bed hog and likes to sleep on the diagonal. And when she's asleep, she's dead weight and very hard to move. I've awakened all bent crooked on a third of a corner of the bed because she's pushed me there overnight.

the Scent of the Missing book trailer, narrated by Susannah Charleson and featuring Team Puzzle and the Mark-9 search and rescue team of Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas.

the official Scent of the Missing website and read reviews of the book.

--Marshal Zeringue