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THE UNDERDOGS tells the story of Karen Shirk: felled at age 24 by a neuromuscular disease and facing life as an immobile, deeply isolated and depressed, ventilator-dependent patient, she was rejected by every service dog agency in the country as “too disabled.” Her nurse encouraged her to raise her own service dog, and Ben, a German shepherd, dragged her back into life. “How many people are stranded like I was,” she wondered, “who could lead productive lives with a service dog?”
A thousand dogs later, Karen Shirk’s service dog academy, 4 Paws for Ability, is restoring broken children and their families to life. Melissa Fay Greene tells the stories of isolated children, struggling parents, and the marvelous dogs who gallop into their lives. Into these modern wonder tales, she weaves the latest scientific discoveries about the inner lives of dogs. It turns out that dogs really are doing the astounding things they appear to do, and they’re doing them for people they love. The frontiers of the human/dog bond are explored here with insight, compassion, humor, and joy. A cast of remarkable characters-scientists and felons, dog trainers and parents, children with disabilities and the great dogs themselves-together address questions about our attachment to dogs, what constitutes a productive life, and what can be accomplished with unconditional love.
Melissa Fay Greene is the author of Praying for Sheetrock; The Temple Bombing; Last Man Out;There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue her Country’s Children; and No Biking in the House Without A Helmet. Her honors include two National Book Award nominations, a National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, the ACLU National Civil Liberties Award, the Hadassah Myrtle Wreath Award, the Salon Book Award, Elle Magazine’s Readers’ Prize, the Georgia Author Award, and a Dog Writers of America Award. She is a current Guggenheim Fellow.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Juke 13
Chapter 2 4 Paws for Ability 29
Chapter 3 Connor 57
Chapter 4 Karen & Piper 69
Chapter 5 Lucy 95
Chapter 6 Casey & Connor 109
Chapter 7 Karen & Ben 127
Chapter 8 Logan 141
Chapter 9 Hero Dogs 163
Chapter 10 Iyal 185
Chapter 11 Shelter Dogs 197
Chapter 12 Prison Dogs 215
Chapter 13 Lucy & Jolly 235
Chapter 14 Casey & Connor II 251
Chapter 15 Logan & Juke 269
Chapter 16 Eddie Hill & Timber & Dante & Keeper & Jiminy 281
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