Monday, November 18, 2013

Quake dogs by Laura Sessions and Craig Bullock

Christchurch, New Zealand experienced two major earthquakes in less than a year and has experienced thousands of aftershocks in the past few years.  For many New Zealanders there was a feeling of helplessness about what we could do to help the people of Christchurch, and for some it was also wondering what could be done for the vulnerable pets left homeless by the quakes.  Some of us also remember vividly the images of search dogs from Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) searching the rubble for victims buried in collapsed buildings after the particularly violent earthquake on February 22, 2011.

Quake dogs is a collection of stories and photographs of the working dogs and companion dogs that have worked in Christchurch during the earthquakes, the dogs that have been rehomed due to often heart breaking reasons, and the dogs that have stayed with their owners but have suffered from their exposure to the earthquakes and debris thrown up by the quakes.  The poignant text is matched beautifully with photographs that capture the character of each dog.  Except for one story, all the stories have been captured by Laura Sessions - and some of those stories had tears streaming down my cheeks because of the raw emotion that was captured in each simple story.  Those words are perfectly matched with photographs that capture the intelligence, trauma, and sweetness of the more than sixty dogs featured.

Sessions and Bullock tracked down dogs all over New Zealand and all over Christchurch to complete their book, a book that has the feel of their passion to share these amazing stories.  Some of the funds from the book are going to support HUHA (Helping You Help Animals) a charitable trust which helps animals of all shapes and sizes.  There are clear themes throughout the book of dogs working closely with people to help people in need (Police and USAR), dogs rehomed through HUHA during mercy missions to find new homes for dogs that people could no longer keep, and the stories of the dogs that have been able to stay with their families and the medical and emotional challenges some of the dogs have continued to face. 

I am not (too) ashamed to admit that I had more than a few moments where I had tears in my eyes because of a particularly touching relationship between two dogs, or because of the devotion shown by the people and their dogs - but there were also times when I had a somewhat goofy smile from relating to the personality of a particular dog.  One story in particular stayed with me, the story of the unknown dog - I tried to tell someone about it and choked up, and then choked up when I tried to read it to someone else.  While this is the story of the dogs of Christchurch, and the dogs who worked in Christchurch, it also captures some of the drama, confusion, and despair people faced in the times after the quakes.

This is not an easy book to read in places, and it is such a unique book that it is difficult to suggest other titles that are the same.  If you enjoy Quake dogs or feel a strong connection to the story in terms of the connection between people and their animals then you may also enjoy some of the following stories about service animals and companion animals.

Reviewed by Brilla

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