Hero Dogs: How a Pack of Rescues, Rejects, and Strays Became America's Greatest Disaster-Search Partners

The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla., killed 168 people. When retired teacher and grandmother of six Wilma Melville showed up with her search-and-rescue dog Murphy, there wasn't much to be done. At the time, there was a woeful nationwide shortage of search teams--only 15, a fraction of what was needed. Knowing more dogs would save lives, Melville created the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation with an unspoken goal of certifying 168 SAR teams--one for each soul lost in Oklahoma City.

Hero Dogs is the astonishing story of how one tenacious woman, helped by a legendary dog trainer and some willing firefighters, fashioned a three-dog pilot program that revolutionized disaster response. Without funding for selectively bred dogs, Wilma was forced to turn to the rejected and allegedly defective. Though she "[doesn't] exactly share their sense of humor," Wilma ended up with three golden retrievers--a twice-rejected guide dog that terrorized wheelchair users, an abused stray and a washed-out field trial competitor.

With co-author Paul Lobo, Melville shares her story in straight-talking prose that evokes the tension and emotion reflective of the high stakes. She is also slyly funny, offering delightfully ironic thoughts on dog humor. When the pilot teams are thrust into the national limelight during their first real-life disaster on 9/11, the results are both triumphant and throat-closing. A fascinating read for animal lovers, thrill-seekers and rescue-hounds alike, Melville's work is proof that some good can rise from the ashes of catastrophe. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review