As we come to appreciate more and more the emotional and sentient lives of animals, take a moment to consider the military working dog.
As readers will learn in this admirable introduction to the military’s K-9 corps, they thrive and suffer as much as the women and men who serve. The book starts with a guided tour of the training work and why some breeds have a natural aptitude for the work. It goes on to provide specific vignettes on dogs at war—with vest-pocket biographies of some better-known champs: Nemo, Chips, Sgt. Stubby—while accompanied by numerous photos. Boxed features break up the text and focus closely on various aspects of MWD work (dogs working near helicopters wear goggles to protect their eyes, for instance) as well as debunking myths (dogs bite to kill, dogs go home with handlers each night, dogs are euthanized once their usefulness is over). Hovering over the story are the extreme dangers that the dogs encounter—not because their lives are less worthy, but because they know what they are doing. It comes down to the senses, as Goldsmith explains how the dogs’ noses work (sniffing out improvised explosive devices and alerting soldiers to incoming poisonous gas) and how their hearing helps soldiers avoid ambushes. Kennel masters and handlers contribute first-person accounts.
A smart salute to MWD that deserves a wide readership beyond dog lovers and military buffs. (Nonfiction. 12-16)