Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SOLDIER DOGS by Maria Goodavage


The Untold Story of America's Canine Heroes

by Maria Goodavage

Pub Date: March 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-525-95278-7
Publisher: Dutton 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.”