The Dogs of War: The Courage, Love, and Loyalty of Military Working Dogs by Lisa Rogak
In the dog person/cat person question, I’m unquestionably a dog person. Seeing a dog hanging out of a car window, grinning, slays me every time. They’re made happy so easily, it almost breaks my heart. (Note: No, there are no dogs at Casa Unruly. I'm still trying to keep houseplants from perishing. [mixed results there] I have my limits.)
Normally I have a “no dog books” rule, because dog books almost always make me cry. (Or, in the case of Marley and Me, hurl.) The dogs are always dying in those books, and why would anyone read such a thing?!
But when I saw the ARC of this book available at NetGalley from Macmillan (thanks, guys!) I thought, That’s a dog book I could handle. Probably I’ll end up emotionally overwhelmed by the very goodness of dogs—especially dogs as heroes during wartime—but that’s the way it goes.
Yes, that’s how it went.
And this thing starts out with a serious bang. The first section was so darn riveting I read it three times. And I just keep thinking about it.
That first section’s about the dog that took part in the Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. Holy
OK, so that’s crazy-amazing. The parts that get me are that the dog wore specially-made night-vision goggles and a flak jacket, had a camera mounted on his back, and had an earbud that allowed his handler to communicate with him.
I just can’t get over the fact that there was a dog on that mission.
The rest of the book describes the unique relationship between military dogs and their handlers. The dogs are given a military rank, and they actually outrank their handler. (This makes me smile.)
Now, there was one part of me that thought: Those poor puppies, being thrown into harm’s way and not knowing the risks. (Kind of like how I used to feel sorry for sled dogs, who had to pull all that weight through the snow.) But then I thought: The dogs they’re choosing to train for these missions are dogs that are suited to do this work. They’re not training up lapdogs, for pete’s sake. And clearly, the dogs often are treated better than the humans.
The best part of this book is the quotes from the dog handlers, whose words clearly show the bond they’ve developed with their dog. Here’s Robert Moore, whose Weimaraner partner, Wisky, served with him in
“‘You talk to them just like anybody else. It’s just like if you’re with
somebody every day, like your squad mates or people who are on your team that
you’ve worked with for a whole year, it’s a very strong bond.’” (p. 180 of the
ARC eBook) Iraq
The eBook numbers 268 pages, which makes it feel a little too long for what I’m about to say: This book feels like it could be read by younger readers (maybe middle school on up). The subject matter is high-interest stuff, and the writing doesn’t seem like it would be too complex for younger readers.
But it works for grown-ups, too. I, for one, found it fascinating.