Saturday, August 6, 2016

Summer Reading 2016: War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love


I had soggy toast for breakfast this morning. No, I'm not oversharing or complaining, the toast was collateral damage from reading this book. I reached the section of the book that shared many of the stories about wounded or KIA war dogs and their handlers and cried all over my toast while I read my way through breakfast. Frankel's look at the history of U.S. military dogs and the various missions they have been entrusted with over the years is full of accounts describing the service and faithfulness of both partners - dog and handler. It also covers the types of training the teams go through to prepare them for deployment, the types of missions they run, and the lives they save.

I respect the time and energy the author put into her work. She conducted interviews, observed training sessions, and even participated in some of the drills and marches. During the research process she made friends with many of the people who shared information with her. She became close enough that when some of the teams she had met suffered a casualty, the network reached out to her and made sure that she received the news. 

I also appreciate the way she covered the various types of military working dogs - from those that deploy with combat teams to search for IEDs or insurgents, to those that work with the medical teams as therapy dogs, and even those that are assigned to help deal with PTSD once troops come back home. Frankel also talked with teams working with TSA and Homeland Security patrolling airports and former service members who have been able to adopt their canine partners once they were no longer doing field work. And the story of Buddy, the first seeing-eye dog in America is included, too.

Along with the text, there are photos of the dogs and their handlers, which gives the narrative a more personal touch. And there are quotes at the beginning of each section from famous people or from other books about these military canines. One that really appealed to me was from Will Rogers, "If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." But I think one that really pertains to how these dogs help the troops even when they are not actively sniffing out bombs or guarding the men is from Robyn Davidson, "The good Lord in his infinite wisdom gave us three things to make life bearable, hope, jokes, and dogs, but the greatest of these was dogs." 

Anyone interested in military history or dogs of any sort will find this book highly interesting and a read that will capture their attention. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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