About Susannah Charleson


usannah Charleson was first published under her given name in 1981. A content provider before the term became an idiom, she has written magazine and newsletter articles, multimedia productions, PSAs, news stories, commercials, features and movie reviews for commercial radio, Web content for publisher Thomson/Wadsworth, radio theatre and parody for public radio, catalogue copy for a vintage jewelry store, and serial fiction on AOL. Read more

Praise for The Possibility Dogs


he compassionate account of the author’s experiences with psychiatric service dogs.
For years, Charleson (Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog, 2010) was a dedicated canine search-and-rescue professional. After a particularly “ugly” search in 2004, she was diagnosed with critical-incident stress by one doctor and PTSD by another. Before she could sink too far into mental illness, Puzzle, the golden retriever puppy she had been training as a search-and-rescue dog, “badgered [her] free” from the fear that was ruling her life. Charleson eventually learned that the demand was growing for canines with the ability to help and support people with mental and emotional problems. The expense involved in “raising, training and providing excellent care” for psychiatric service-dog candidates, however, made them too costly for many individuals. Determined to show that owners could teach suitable dogs to become their assistants, Charleson went into shelters to locate a dog with the resilience, intelligence and good nature necessary to do psychiatric service work and that she could train on her own. She found her candidate in a starving pit bull terrier puppy she named Jake Piper. Drawing on her encounters with many extraordinary psych service dogs and their handlers, as well as her own experiences with mental illness, Charleson trained Jake to distract her away from anxiety-based behaviors like compulsive stove checking. The story she tells about her dogs is remarkable, but those she includes about other canines—like Merlin, the black lab, who could sense the onset of panic attacks, and Ollie, the blind and deaf terrier who brought comfort to anxious children—are equally amazing.
An inspiring and refreshingly optimistic reminder about the untapped possibilities that exist in the relationships between humans and dogs.” — Kirkus, May 1


ou don’t have to be an animal lover to be moved by this beautifully written and impassioned account of the author’s work rescuing dogs from shelters and training them to be service animals. Some go on to assist the visually impaired, while others help soldiers returning from combat to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. Others aid sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder, allowing them to stay on task. While plenty of writers have shared their experiences of animal empathy, few have done so as well as Charleson (Scent of the Missing). An emotional high point is her description of Lexie, “a very light blond retriever from a bad situation who could use a little rescuing herself.” Charleson teams Lexie up with Nancy, an online friend who has treatment-resistant depression. Nancy is given new opportunities to function by her service animal. This is the rare book that can change minds about the reality of animals’ emotional lives. (June)” — Publisher’s Weekly, March 18, 2013 (starred review)


ne of our favorite books was Charleson’s first, Scent of the Missing, about training both herself and her dog, Puzzle, for search and rescue work. This time, she takes a similar approach but refocuses it on training dogs (all of whom are rescues) for psychiatric service and therapy duty. She learns how to evaluate dogs in order to find those who might have the right personality for this activity; for many shelter dogs, this is literally a lifesaver. Not only is the book a testament to the strength of the human-dog bond, but also, an informative training guide and a truly inspiring personal story.” — The Bark, Summer 2013


hat an amazing book. Combine love, knowledge, and real-life drama with pitchperfect writing, and you’ll end up with The Possibility Dogs. Simply brilliant!”— Patricia McConnell, author of The Other End of the Leash


eading The Possibility Dogs is like taking an amazing literary journey with a dear friend by your side. The characters you meet will enchant you, but the story-teller will capture your heart. If you love dogs, this is a can’t-miss book written by a kindred spirit.”— Jennifer Arnold, author of Through a Dog’s Eyes and In a Dog’s Heart


n eloquent and heartwarming journey into the world of some very special dogs. Charleson is a great humanitarian who recounts her efforts to turn abandoned and shelter-bound dogs into special service dogs. She succeeds brilliantly and we cheer her every step of the way.”— Susan Richards, author of Chosen by a Horse


usannah Charleson is not a dog trainer who simply writes of dogs, but a true writer of lean, layered prose, who, like all fine writers, cannot help but tell us what lies closest to her heart and soul. The Possibility Dogs resonates with this — with desperate dogs and people close to the edge, who find each other, and in doing so, learn what is truly possible in life.”— Steve Duno, author of Last Dog on the Hill


or everyone who is interested in the human-animal bond, this book is essential reading. Learn how service dogs can provide emotional support for people who are in great need.”— Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human

Praise for Scent of the Missing


moving, intelligent study of the value of forming a trusting partnership.” — USA TODAY, May 6, 2010


f you want to read about a dog who’s a real hero, try Susannah Charleson’s refreshingly grounded memoir, Scent of the Missing.” — Washington Post, June 23, 2010


ood job! Good writer! Good dog!”Dallas Morning News, April 25, 2010


mart, edgy and thought-provoking…” — Toronto Star, April 19, 2010


haunting meditation on trust, hope and love…” — People Magazine, May 3, 2010


n inspiring collection of rescue tales ideal for dog lovers and armchair detectives.” — Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2010


he transformation of Puzzle the cuddly pup into Puzzle the professional search-and-rescue dog would be story enough, but Susannah Charleson gives us far more. With lean, lovely prose she takes us on a clear-eyed, compassionate journey into a mysterious world in which every story begins as a ghost story. When Charleson turns the search inward, she does so deftly, never straying more than a leash-length from the heart and soul of this book: Puzzle, and the all-too mortal ghosts she seeks.” — Michael Perry, author of Population: 485 — Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, Truck: A Love Story, and Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs,and Parenting


cent of the Missing is not only a ‘stay up too late at night’ story, it’s a brilliantly written book that should be on every dog lover’s bed stand. Her descriptions of her dogs are laugh out loud funny, and her use of language is so rich I’m not sure if I want to read her book or eat it.” — Patricia B. McConnell, author of The Other End of the Leash and For the Love of a Dog


his book is a fantastic discovery! Dog and human decipher each other’s language and behavior to solve the mystery of the missing, and along the way find their bonds of love, trust and friendship grow. I loved this book.” — Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica and Grayson


fascinating woman, Susannah Charleson, has written eloquently about her fascinating colleague, a golden retriever named Puzzle, and the critically important search and rescue work that these two faced together. Scent of the Missing is a clear documentation of the ability of search and rescue dogs, and a celebration of the human-animal bond.” — Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs


riveting view of both the human animal bond and the training of search and rescue dogs. All dog lovers and people interested in training service dogs should read this book.” — Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make us Human and Animals in Translation


cent of the Missing is heartwarming, heart-achingly poignant, and riveting from page one. Puzzle had me from her first joyous wroo!” — Hallie Ephron, author of Never Tell a Lie


cent of the Missing contains wonderful writing about dogs and plenty of powerful, compassionate writing about the community of mankind. In its telling, it is respectful of life and celebrates the living.” — Rick Bass, author of The Lost Grizzlies: A Search for Survivors in the Wilderness of Colorado, The New Wolves: The Return of the Mexican Wolf to the American Southwest and Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had