Review: The Underdogs
When she was 26 years old, Karen Shirk was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a rare neuromuscular disease that left her respirator dependent and practically bedridden. Her caregiver sensed that Karen had become despondent and lonely so she strongly suggested Karen get a service dog but every agency they contacted turned Karen down because she was on a ventilator. Her caregiver told her to get her own dog and hire a trainer and, once she did, she never looked back. Karen regained her spark for life and her health improved. She even credits that dog for saving her life when post surgery medications left her in bad shape.
Once other’s saw Karen’s success, they asked her to help them get a service dog of their own. When other agencies said no, Karen’s organization, 4 Paws for Ability, said yes, becoming the first organization to place service animals with children.
The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love by Melissa Fay Greene is not only the story of Karen and 4 Paws for Ability, it is the story of the many other lives this wonderful organization has touched. Most people understand the huge impact service animals have on the lives of their patients but these animals also improve the quality of life for the rest of their families, with many parents saying they were able to get a full night’s sleep for the first time since their child was born once the service dog joined their family. These animals also make a big difference to their trainers, including some prisoners.
Greene sprinkles facts about inter-species relationships throughout the book, citing studies and research. A few of those areas of the book were a little dry but those sections didn’t last long and didn’t keep me from loving this book! I cried on several occasions as I read The Underdogs and gained a new respect for service dogs, their trainers, and families looking for a solution to their struggles. Every animal lover will want to read this book!