Thursday, September 14, 2017

Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America's Canine Heroes, by Maria Goodavage (author), Nicole Vilencia (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, March 2012

Maria Goodavage, like many people, became seriously interested in Military Working Dogs after hearing about Cairo, the dog who was part of the mission to get Osama bin Laden. She thought that surely this wouldn't be a hard subject to investigate; after all, these are dogs, not not nuclear weapons or stealth fighters.

It turns out that this is a very challenging area to investigate, precisely because these are "just dogs" and dogs who are in many ways quite secret. In many ways, in many places, they officially don't exist. This includes in veterinarian's offices, where the normal paperwork simply does not occur. She had her work cut out for her just getting in touch with the people who could tell her about these dogs and introduce her to their handlers.

But in the process, she met some wonderful people and dogs.

Goodavage was already very knowledgeable about dogs, but the lives of military working dogs and their handlers are very different from anything that happens in civilian life. Many of us have very close bonds with our dogs, especially when they are for us working dogs: service dogs, farm dogs, search and rescue dogs being just a few examples.

Handlers of military working dogs, though, depend on these dogs for their lives. Yet at the same time, they also live with the knowledge that these dogs who save their lives and the lives of other soldiers serving along side them may be killed while doing so. It's hard to beat the bond that comes from that.

Goodavage looks at the modern history of soldier dogs, their selection; their training; the washouts who are often fantastic dogs, just not for this work; the training of their handlers; the relationships between them; the work they do; the retirement of the soldier dogs who survive their service.

She also looks at the complete lack of any official recognition for what these dogs do and the lives they save by doing it. Legally, officially, a military work dog is not a dog soldier, but a piece of equipment, no different than a rifle.

Overall, it's a fascinating look at the dogs and at the people who train them and work with them.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.