(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Paul Ogden was born deaf. His family decided early that he would not be hampered by his handicap. They wanted him to become a well-educated, valued member of society. During his final year of graduate school, Paul decided to get a dog. He wanted a companion, but his career goal—he was preparing to be a professor of deaf education—challenged him to experiment with training a dog who could respond to manual rather than verbal commands. Such a dog was Lox, an obstreperous puppy whom Paul eventually trained to respond not only to hand signals but also to a multiplicity of auditory signals.

The degree to which Lox had become indispensable was immediately apparent when he died. In order to fill the void, Paul applied to Canine Companions for Independence, and organization which trains dogs as professional helpers for deaf or otherwise disabled individuals. Dogs trained to assist the deaf are called “signal dogs.” Paul was screened intensively before being accepted into the program and permitted to begin a two-week training course so rigorous it is called “boot camp.” Early in the training period, Chelsea, a shiny black Belgian sheep dog, chose Paul to be her companion. Paul learned quickly that even though he had already trained a dog himself, Chelsea, fresh from eighteen months of sophisticated schooling, was the real professional and he only an amateur. For the remainder of the book Paul describes his adventures with Chelsea as together they learned their separate roles in what would be a lifelong partnership.

CHELSEA: THE STORY OF A SIGNAL DOG describes in detail the remarkable intelligence and skill of the professionally trained working dog. This book, which educates without preaching, provides an intimate portrait of a dog who is almost human in her ability to enhance her master’s life. Chelsea’s story is a fitting salute to all the world’s Chelseas who make such a priceless contribution to society in such a modest and unassuming way.