Review: Soldier Dogs by Maria Goodavage

Soldier Dogs by Maria Goodavage

Series: None

Genre: Nonfiction, Dogs

Source: Audiobook, purchased

Narrator: Nicole Vilencia

Publishing Date: 2012

304 pages

Synopsis: People all over the world have been riveted by the story of Cairo, the Belgian Malinois who was a part of the Navy SEAL team that led the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. A dog’s natural intelligence, physical abilities, and pure loyalty contribute more to our military efforts than ever before. You don’t have to be a dog lover to be fascinated by the idea that a dog-the cousin of that furry guy begging for scraps under your table-could be one of the heroes who helped execute the most vital and high-tech military mission of the new millennium.

Now Maria Goodavage, editor and featured writer for one of the world’s most widely read dog blogs, tells heartwarming stories of modern soldier dogs and the amazing bonds that develop between them and their handlers. Beyond tales of training, operations, retirement, and adoption into the families of fallen soldiers, Goodavage talks to leading dog-cognition experts about why dogs like nothing more than to be on a mission with a handler they trust, no matter how deadly the IEDs they are sniffing, nor how far they must parachute or rappel from aircraft into enemy territory.

“Military working dogs live for love and praise from their handlers,” says Ron Aiello, president of the United States War Dogs Association and a former marine scout dog handler. “The work is all a big game, and then they get that pet, that praise. They would do anything for their handler.” This is an unprecedented window into the world of these adventurous, loving warriors. 

My thoughts

Such a good book about these hero dogs and their handlers. I’ve always been fascinated by them since I read books about dogs used in Vietnam by the military when I was a young adult. And it always broke my heart that the dogs used in Vietnam weren’t brought back home to the U.S. Most were euthanized. Today most dogs come back to the U.S. after their tours of duty overseas. I am disappointed, however, that the government still considers dogs as equipment. That affects so many things when it comes to the dogs. For example, dogs can’t officially receive any commendations for their work.

Deployments

I like the author talks about these dogs in a matter-of-fact way giving scientific information about dogs and specifically military dogs. However, she also talks about the things which make these dogs so special to their handlers and their units. Dogs deployed with units help the morale of the unit. Many dogs seem to know when a person needs extra attention and they spread their affection around.

Handlers and their dogs form a very special bond especially when they deploy together. In fact, many handlers prefer to be deployed even though it’s dangerous, because they get to spend more time with their dogs. Many dogs sleep with their handlers which isn’t allowed when dog and handler are in the States. The dog has to stay in a kennel and dogs might be assigned a different handler when they come back to the States. This is hard for both the dog and handler.

Well-researched book

The author obviously did lots of research for this book–telling about the history of military dogs, for example. She visited many military facilities to find out about the dogs, their training and their stories. She met many handlers, kennel managers, dog and handler instructors and many others during her time working on the book. She creates a fascinating picture of these dogs.

I won’t lie–Ms. Goodavage tells us some heartbreaking stories about both dogs, handlers, other soldiers, but she also tells stories about the heroism of these dogs, their handlers and other soldiers. And she tells about the dogs who retire and are adopted by civilians or often by their handler.

Should the military use dogs?

Some people may feel dogs shouldn’t be used for such dangerous work as IED detection, but dogs save many lives including sometimes lives of the people living where they’re deployed. The author also talks about the training the dogs get and that these are high energy dogs who love to work. They’re proud of their work and their reward which is almost always a Kong toy. When they do their job their greatest joy is to play with their Kong and receive the praise of their handler.

A good narrator

I listened to the audio version of the book and liked the narrator–Nicole Vilencia–a lot. She sounds like she could have written the book herself–that she knew all this information and was telling me about it. I recommend this book if you’re interested in dogs especially working, military dogs.

My Rating: B+

Narrator Rating: B+

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

  • 52 books in 52 weeks hosted by the mommymannegren.com blog — Military Related: Fiction or Nonfiction
  • The Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by Lark @ The Bookwyrm’s Hoard
  • Review Writing Challenge hosted by Shari @ Delighted Reader blog
  • They Call It Puppy Love Challenge hosted by Barb @ Booker T’s Farm (February challenge)