A look inside the work of a military dog.
As much as many of us believe our pets worthy of lengthy books detailing all of their glorious wonder, the love and gratitude we feel for them doesn’t always translate to the page. Not true with Buster, the springer spaniel at the center of British soldier Barrow’s tale. Serving multiple tours of duty together, Buster played an instrumental role on multiple occasions in saving the lives of soldiers in multiple theaters of war. In 2007, the author was approached with a new assignment: assume the responsibility of training a seasoned explosive search dog for a tour in Afghanistan. Barrow was experienced with dogs, and equal amounts of effort were placed into securing both him and an appropriately matched dog, one who not only had the necessary battle experience to do his job to near-perfection, but also the drive to deal with the excessive heat, difficult terrain, and chaotic circumstances. “A search dog without drive,” writes Barrow, “is about as useful as a car without an engine.” The difference between perfection and near-perfection can be dangerously large, however. Early in their tour together, Barrow’s unit came under fire, and he was told to throw a grenade to give them cover. As soon as he threw the grenade, he realized two things: that he may not have thrown it far enough and that Buster would think they were playing a game of fetch. Throughout the book, the author is self-deprecating, and Buster consistently displays his ability to strike a balance between saving lives and the adorable dog shenanigans that endeared him to the soldiers around him.
A warmly written account of the impact of one hardworking dog on a man who has worked diligently to maintain a professional remove with his companion, knowing full well the dog’s got his heart from the start.