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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes

Maria Goodavage has written a great nonfiction book for animal lovers and those interested in the military. The book has its own website full of bonus features, including the book trailer, an extended excerpt from the book, an active blog, and ways to support military dogs. The Washington Post is lucky enough to have a series of photos introducing the dogs from the book. They have so much character! (It’s worth waiting through the site’s advertising video.)

As mentioned at the end of our review, there is a bill working its way through Congress right now, the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act (S. 2134), that would change these animals from being labeled as “Equipment” by the military. See the author’s blog for more information.

GOODAVAGE, Maria. Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes. 293p. photos. Dutton. Mar. 2012. Tr $26.95. ISBN 978-0-525-95278-7. LC 2011049674.  Soldier Dogs

Adult/High School–In short, chatty chapters, a dog lover and writer embeds readers in the world of the military dog. Goodavage shares the most common job of the dogs (sniffing out explosives) and the best type of dog for it. (Would your pet make a good soldier? Probably not.) The book is divided into four parts : an introductory overview, details about the training, details of scientific background, and, finally, some episodes with actual soldiers and dogs. Along the way, Goodavage does a good job building the case that the dogs are happy, useful parts of the military unit, which makes these stories of the bond between the trainer and dog, especially in combat, even more touching. Certainly some of the stories are sad, but the cumulative effect is a recognition of these dogs as willing heroes, just like their humans. Most readers will find their preconceptions about military working dogs challenged. Even the cover photo holds a surprise – what looks like a wacky photo of a dog in paratrooper glasses is an actual working dog wearing protective goggles due to a war injury. Several colorful photos show the actual dogs and soldiers depicted in the book. As the book draws to a close, Goodavage shares some of the political movements related to the dogs, such as having them classified as more than equipment, as they are now. Teens will enjoy learning about these brave soldiers.–Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. It’s wonderful to see the stories of these remarkable dogs shared with a new generation of readers. I believe the presence of dogs–highly trained military working dogs or even local strays unofficially “adopted” by the soldiers–helps soldiers to maintain their morale and their humanity in the chaotic circumstances of war. During the American Civil War, the dogs who accompanied soldiers typically had no official role and they served mainly as mascots and companions, but they helped to raise soldiers’ morale at one of the bleakest times in our nation’s history. They shared the soldiers’ hardships and deprivations, and forged enduring bonds of loyalty, affection and trust. War has changed greatly since then, but the relationship between dogs and the soldiers who depend on them has not.