When Rabbi Harvey and Donnie Winokur of Atlanta brought home a son from a Russian orphanage in 1999, they plunged into a life of bedlam, exhaustion, confusion, and isolation: it turned out that Iyal was severely brain-damaged by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
When Iyal was nine, Donnie discovered 4 Paws for Ability, a service dog academy in Ohio training dogs for children. In time, the Winokurs were matched with Chancer, a big, self-confident golden retriever unfazed by Iyal’s meltdowns. The household stabilized and Iyal had his first-ever friend.
The Underdogs tells the story of the Winokurs and half a dozen other families across the United States contending with their children’s autism, attachment disorder, seizure disorder, or terminal illness. The family stories are interwoven with current science on the amazing capacities of dogs, with experts exploring how a dog like Chancer is able to offer safe haven, friendship, and fun to a boy like Iyal.