Cat Warren and her assertive German attend went on an absurd journey. Solo, the aggressive dog that wouldn’t behave about added dogs, became a reliable alive dog that excelled at body training and abstruse to accomplish a admired accessible service. Warren, an Oregon built-in and longtime bi-weekly anchorman who now teaches at North Carolina State, angry her acquaintance with Solo into a book alleged “What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World.”
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Warren acclimated Solo’s adventure as an access into the apple of alive dogs and acclimated her journalism abilities and absorption in science to analyze how and why these animals behave the way they do and what it agency for them and for the bodies who alternation them and await on them. Rebecca Skloot raved about “What the Dog Knows” in The New York Times and alleged it “a affective adventure of how one woman adapted her afflicted dog into a admiring accompaniment and an asset to society, all while barrier on the adorableness of activity in their searches for death.”
Warren will altercate her book at 4 p.m. March 14 at Vintage Books in Vancouver. She answered a few questions by email.
What is your accomplishments in Oregon? Area are you from, area did you go to school, etc.? Did you accept dogs back you were a kid?
I grew up alfresco Corvallis, with acreage of garden and woods. And we had dogs. The 1960s weren’t an era back best families active in the country, alike absolutely common ones, fabricated deliberative decisions to accept dogs because of the abysmal affecting ties amid animal and dog, or because dogs would accomplish you advantageous and lower your claret pressure, and accumulate you active longer. Sometimes, families declared they were accepting puppies to advise their accouchement responsibility. Mostly, they had them because they admired accepting dogs around, as allotment of the appliance of life. If they were big dogs, they were mostly alfresco furniture.
At first, that was the case with us. Back I was actual young, we had a alternation of macho hunting Labradors. The aftermost one we had was called Lab. There was added than one Lab, but I can’t bethink how many. I was a pig-tailed midget, and a little afraid of them. After the Labradors, we accelerating to a added aesthetic alternation of changeable Irish and English setters. They were so admirable and we admired their instincts back they saw a bird: the way they froze, eyes fixed, application their blocky muzzles like a butt sight, bristling cape stiff. They would beddy-bye in advanced of the fireplace, or lie beneath dining allowance table. Their sins were insubstantial: jumping on an casual guest, accepting into the debris can beneath the sink, or snagging abandoned rolls of toilet cardboard to comedy with.
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Describe yourself as a dog person. What are your brand and dislikes in a dog? What is it about German shepherds that draws you to them?
I accept so abounding added dog brand than dislikes. Generally, I adulation ample dogs that accept a amount of independence, but additionally band acutely with their owner. I like acute dogs that accept a faculty of humor, but additionally a affectionate of basal seriousness. German shepherds weren’t the complete antipode of setters, but they became the brand that ill-fitted me best as an adult, as I went to alum academy at University of Oregon, and lived above the country as a bi-weekly reporter. I’m advantageous that my bedmate loves shepherds as well. Truthfully, though, German shepherds were a compromise. What I secretly capital back I was adolescent was a atramentous balk wolf. Didn’t every young, animal-loving feminist appetite one? I’m joking, but abundant later, I accomplished that any cardinal of women working-dog trainers I grew to adore additionally started out absent a wolf. Added than one approved training wolf hybrids afore giving them up as disasters.
With my aboriginal German shepherd, I anon accomplished that he was altered than the setters of my childhood. Tarn — called for the brown-and-gray abundance lakes of North England — cared more. Instantly. About aggregate and everyone, except perhaps, about birds. While setters generally gazed out in abstraction, Tarn stared anon at people. Especially at me. The aboriginal time I went to the bath the day he came home with us, and I bankrupt the aperture on him, he sat alfresco and howled. It wasn’t about the charge to be adapted abutting to me because of dependence. As a amount of fact, in a room, he was happiest a ambit away. He aloof capital to be in eyeshot. If article was happening, he capital to be there.
You alarm how your dog Solo was boisterous and contrary and capricious about added dogs. How did body training transform him? What it a amount of award the adapted fit, like a adolescent who’s advised apathetic or a apathetic abecedarian until he finds his passion?
Solo, my third German attend pup, was a article — the abandoned pup in his litter. He spent his aboriginal black with me and my bedmate in a frenzy, bitter my arms, aggravating to bulge my father’s changeable Irish setter, whom we had adopted — active roughshod over my fantasies of a calm, mature, affable attend who would lie beneath my board as I worked. His aboriginal night with us, he approved to bite his way out of his crate, growling. I cried in my husband’s arms. David consoled me by adage we could aloof acknowledgment him. I cried harder.
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Serendipity is sometimes apprenticed by desperation. Solo as a article puppy didn’t apperceive how to comedy able-bodied with added dogs. Well, that’s an understatement. He hated best added dogs. Yet, he had qualities that alive dog trainers love: energy, toughness, intelligence, and a acceptable nose. I had no abstraction how to accord with him, though. Back he was four and a bisected months old, I took him to a admirable K9 trainer. She looked at him misbehaving, abrupt and barking at the dogs abaft a cyclone fence, again looked at me, and said, “He’s aloof a jackass. What do you appetite to do with him?” That simple catechism was the alpha of my adventure into the apple of aroma dogs.
Solo became a body dog. Until he retired aftermost year, I would occasionally get a alarm back addition was missing and best acceptable dead. He admired the work, and it helped me adulation him. It additionally accomplished him, and ashen his edges about added dogs. Not completely, but abundant that he was no best a connected anguish to me. For Solo, body training and chase was a circuitous game. Acquisition the aroma of afterlife he’s been accomplished to recognize, acquaint me about it, and get a accolade — arena tug of war. That assignment adapted him, but it adapted me. Alive carefully with a dog, accomplishing article you both love, is consistently the key to change for both the dog and for you. Solo became my accomplice in the assignment we did together. He alien me to a alluring apple that I’ve developed to love.
One affair I’ve heard about dogs that makes faculty is that back something’s amiss — they’re barking too abundant or acting up or bitter the mailman — it’s usually because their activity is misdirected. Do you agree, based on your experience?
I’m not a dog behavorist, and anniversary dog is so altered from the other. But back dogs do things that are acutely alienated — such as bitter the mail carrier — it’s the owner’s albatross to acquisition a way to change that behavior. It’s not straightforward, though. That behavior can axis from so abounding things: bare exercise, poor socialization, bad breeding, the amiss access to acclimation the behavior. And it does booty time and backbone to about-face such behaviors around. Sometimes it’s almost easy. My 2-year-old changeable shepherd, who ability commonly be a little territorial accustomed her druthers, goes basics back she sees a amber UPS barter anywhere in the neighborhood. She can’t delay to accost our UPS carrier. She knows dog treats are forthcoming. That behavior transfers over to the majority of our guests. But bodies accept to bethink that article like barking is a affection that is accustomed for a dog: it’s aloof not adapted back you alive in a adjacency area your dog’s behaviour bugs the neighbors. And if a dog is barking from apathy or break anxiety, you accept to accede whether it’s advantageous for a dog to leave it abandoned for nine hours.
Cadaver training is fascinating, important and accomplishing assignment but ability not be for everyone. What were your animosity activity into it, and how has it afflicted you?
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It’s not for everyone. I did some cerebration about training Solo for body assignment already the trainer appropriate it. The abstraction didn’t gross me out. I’d covered abomination and courts as a bi-weekly reporter. I grew up in the fields and woods. My brothers and ancestor hunted. We all fished. And my ancestor was a biologist. So at atomic abstractly, application a dog to acquisition the missing and asleep didn’t affront my own sensibilities. It’s accurate that I hadn’t yet agilely abreast some of my English administration colleagues what I was cerebration of training Solo to do. But it seemed aboveboard to me, and not that odd or arcane. Dogs are inherently hunters with acceptable noses. Why not use those gifts?
For me, the aftermost about 11 years of acquirements how to assignment with Solo, and now my new pup, Coda, has opened a apple above the university. It’s abounding with mystery, sometimes with sadness, but additionally with the challenges and achievement that comes from acquirements a new conduct –working with aroma dogs, with law administration and K9 trainers and handlers, and with the accustomed and sometimes aberrant landscapes of North Carolina. In the process, I’ve abstruse a lot of aroma science and alike added about dogs and people. And about myself. I achievement I still accept abounding years larboard to accumulate acquirements to be a bigger abettor and trainer. It feels as admitting I’ve aloof begun.
Reading: Warren discusses “What the Dog Knows” at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at Vintage Books, 6613 E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver.
— Jeff Baker
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