The Next Chapter

Rachel Rose discusses the internal conflict she faced writing her book The Dog Lover Unit

Rachel Rose on her book about police dogs and their handlers.
Vancouver's outgoing poet laureate Rachel Rose on her nonfiction book The Dog Lover Unit. (Ayelet Tsabari/St. Martin's Press)

Rachel Rose is the outgoing poet laureate of Vancouver, but her latest book isn't poetry. Instead, she's taken her poet's eye and turned it on police dogs.

These are the dogs that go along with police officers on searches and raids. Rose went along for the ride with the dogs and their handlers in four different countries. And the result is her book The Dog Lover Unit: Lessons in Courage From the World's Canine Cops.

Internal conflict

"The Dog Lover Unit was such a departure for me. I'd never done a nonfiction like this before. I grew up in a counter-cultural family on Hornby Island. There were no people around me who felt comfortable in the presence of police officers. I went to many anti-nuclear demonstrations as a kid and was really fighting the power and was surrounded by activists. Activists are people who want to change the world and force people to change for society to change.

"My background and my writing self are always in tension with that. My writing self begins from a place of wondering what it would be like to be alone for all your shifts with a police dog who's your partner and what it would be like to depend on your dog for your life. I now think of my writing self as akin to what the dogs do with tracking and following a scent. Having curiosity, having all these questions and then just going on this quest to find answers. Those answers became The Dog Lover Unit." 

Memorable misadventures

"I think one of the funniest adventures was when I was in Paris at that Brigade Cynophile, which translates literally to the dog lover unit. I was out there with a bunch of French policemen. In France, unless it's a known terrorist who's attacking or a known armed suspect who's shooting, they're required by law to have their dogs muzzled. So the dogs have learned though how to attack very well with these steel reinforced muzzles. And I was all padded up, dressed like the Michelin man being attacked by this dog Maxou.

"I thought I was ready because I'd been attacked in the U.S. and in Canada and I never had padding before. So Maxou flew through the air with his steel muzzle and punched me. I just fell over backwards right on the grass and made a noise, like a pig being hit by a sledgehammer. They caught it all on video which you will never see. But my kids say that video gets funnier every single time you watch it."

Rachel Rose's comments have been edited and condensed.