Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes
By Maria Goodavage, Narrated by Nicole Vilencia
Audiobook, 8 hours 6 minutes
Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Soldier Dogs describes the lives and experiences of Military Working Dogs and their handlers in the U.S. Armed Forces. It details the dogs’ acquisition process, screening, training, medical care, deployments with their handlers, and eventual retirement. This is augmented by interviews and anecdotes from those involved in the training and combat deployments which adds a human (and canine) perspective and keeps the narrative interesting.
The dogs receive specialized training and are categorized based upon their abilities. Many of these take advantage of the dogs’ exceptional sense of smell, such as explosives detection, tracking, and narcotics. There are also patrol dogs which would be the equivalent of “guard” or “attack” dogs. Dual-purpose dogs combine the two. The two most common MWD breeds are Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds, although many other breeds are used as well. Altogether, there are approximately 13,000 dogs serving with U.S. forces.
There were several details which surprised me in this book. The majority of the dogs are purchased from European breeders, who also give them their names. The dogs are usually not purebreds for health reasons. After passing their screenings they receive an alphanumeric tattoo in their left ear which becomes the equivalent of their last name. The dogs are considered “equipment”, and are assigned to different handlers for each deployment. They are generally not housebroken because they live in the field with their handlers or in kennels on bases.
I enjoyed this book. The dogs bond with their handlers, and often become the unofficial mascot of the units the dog teams are attached to. For the soldiers they are considered comrades, sharing the same food and foxholes as the other members of the unit. Recommended for both military history buffs and dog enthusiasts.