SOLDIER DOGS by Maria Goodavage


The Untold Story of America's Canine Heroes
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KIRKUS REVIEW writer Goodavage profiles an indispensible warrior of the four-legged variety.

The author investigates how specially trained dog breeds work with American military troops in everything from stress relief to lifesaving bomb detection. They also assisted in the tracking and seizure of Osama bin Laden. The use of military animals dates back to World War I, but trained canines were often left behind or euthanized once combat ceased (they’re now adopted out). These specially trained pups may be whelped as “equipment” for the Department of Defense, but they’re prized as elemental keys to successful armed-forces missions; particularly helpful is their intuitive ability to “normalize” life for soldiers stressed by the relentless threat of enemy violence. Through interviews with upper-echelon military personnel (most in Afghanistan) and dog handlers, Goodavage uncovers how these dogs are procured and trained to become field-specialized, and she impartially addresses the conflicting ethics of employing canines in battle. The author’s dog Jake appears throughout the narrative, yet unlike diminutive Jack Russell terrier Lars, with a nose for explosives, or Buck, a chocolate lab with crippling PTSD, Goodavage offers her faithful companion not as “military hero material,” but as an effective contrast to the soldier dogs. The author provides inspiring personal stories of the many canine allies (and their handlers) who have dramatically enhanced military command units and examines how this indelible human-canine bond often transcends the atrocities of wartime violence.

A well-deserved salute to the military’s “paws-on-the-ground heroes.”

Pub Date: March 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-525-95278-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2012


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Kirkus Interview
Maria Goodavage
October 24, 2016

Wherever the president goes, there will be dogs. They’ll be there no matter what the country or state. They’ll be there regardless of the political climate, the danger level, the weather, or the hour. Maria Goodavage’s new book Secret Service Dogs immerses readers in the heart of this elite world of canine teams who protect first families, popes, and presidential candidates: the selection of dogs and handlers, their year-round training, their missions around the world, and, most important, the bond—the glue that holds the teams together and can mean the difference between finding bombs and terrorists or letting them slip by. Secret Service Dogs celebrates the Secret Service’s most unforgettable canine heroes. It is a must-read for fans of Maria Goodavage, anyone who wants a rare inside view of the United States Secret Service, or just loves dogs. “Goodavage’s subjects and their companions are quirky and dedicated enough to engage readers wondering about those dogs on the White House lawn,” our reviewer writes. View video >


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