Monday, March 4, 2013

Non-Fiction Monday: Dogs on Duty: soldiers' best friends on the battlefield and beyond

by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent. 48 p. Walker & Company, September, 2012. 9780802728456. (Purchased.)

Sporting a patriotic cover and featuring a kitted out German Shepard perched alert and ready for action atop a tank, this book doesn't stand a chance at sitting on its display easel for very long. Flip to the back cover and examine the photo of a be-goggled dog waiting patiently with his similarly be-goggled handler in an aircraft with an open door in the background and we know that these dogs are unusual. And the "wow" factor never lets up. Each page turn brought gasps and widened eyes and minutes spent inside each photo. These are not your ordinary dogs here. Here there be heroes folks. Just as I myself wondered if I could hack even basic training let alone Special Forces training when reading A Warrior's Heart recently (I would not), I turned an affectionate eye to my two basically trained labradors and faced the bitter truth that they wouldn't cut it either.

Okay, now go back and read the text.

It doesn't take much to get me to open a book with a dog on the cover. I love dog stories - fiction, non-fiction - bring it on. I am also a fan of Mrs. Patent. You can find quite a few of her books on my shelves both at school and at home. She's a wizard at explaining. Her writing holds it own against the fantastic photos as she provides a history of dogs in the military, what traits are sought after by the military, the training process, life in action, what happens when either partner is injured and life after service. There will be somber moments.

Suggested reading, including books and websites, as well as a glossary, index and source material wrap up this absolute must-purchase volume. Your student patrons will thank you for it.

Pair this with Cracker the Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata or Shadow by Michael Morpurgo for engaging fiction featuring military dogs. Cracker, in particular, portrays the process of training and bonding that both human and canine go through. 

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