Red Dog Rising

by Jeff Schettler. Alpine Publications. $12.95.

978-1-57779-104-1Looking for adventure? Then grab a copy of this brisk-moving, 243-page portrait of a guy and his dog. This isn’t just any guy or any dog. One’s a dedicated cop and the other is his incredible K9 partner Ronin, a bloodhound.

Schettler richly details all facets of each case and leaves you feeling like you’re along for the ride, walk or run, depending how hard Ronin is pushing the accelerator.

Each invigorating chapter, or outing, serves up a new slice of life, whether it’s in pursuit of a bank robber to searching for a missing young girl, tracking a fleeing felon in a stolen vehicle or a mushroom hunter who didn’t return home. The outcomes aren’t always rosy but they’re realistic.

More than once I felt like I was traipsing through high grass, dodging poison ivy or wading in a muddy creek alongside Schettler, who worked as an Alameda, Calif., and Amador County, Calif., K9 officer before retiring with an injury in 2007.

“Trailing epitomizes the dog’s natural instincts to scent patterns and replicates or approximates what a wild canid such as a coyote or wolf might do when following prey based on scent. The human addition to the equation is ensuring that the trailing dog stays on one particular scent for as long as it might last,” says Schettler.

While lauding Ronin’s focus and finds, he adds, “The bloodhound is actually the quintessential American police dog. This might be hard to believe for many who recognize the German shepherd as the poster dog in police circles.”

The German shepherd might be the face of most K9 units, Schettler acknowledges, but the “droopy-eyed, long-eared, slobbering, goofy bloodhound,” he insists, has made a comeback because of increased media exposure in numerous challenging searches nationally.

But it’s the intense behind-the-scenes training that is key to success, he emphasizes. “A good handler has to understand all of the subtle behavior and changes in body language that the dog manifests in order to determine if this has happened. It isn’t easy, either. It takes years and thousands of practice trails around every possible situation – animals in particular – in order to learn how to read your dog properly. It also takes plenty of mistakes. The best way I have learned is when I’ve made the big ones.”

Around each street corner or down the next steep ravine, “Red Dog Rising” is packed with a team’s resilient can-do spirit that is both engrossing and enlightening.  And guaranteed, next time you see a bloodhound on the street, you’ll look at it a bit differently.

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