The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love

The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love

by Melissa Fay Greene


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062218520
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/28/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

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

Introduction 1

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

Chapter 17 Micah & Casey 293

Chapter 18 Iyal & Chancer 303

Acknowledgments 321

Notes 323

Photo Credits 337

Index 339

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