Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

To Serve As Only They Can

For more years than we probably know dogs have served humans in a military, rescue, search and protective capacity.  Their intelligence and enhanced senses are invaluable in assisting us and enriching our lives.  It goes far beyond being our best friends.  Their willingness to put themselves in danger, to do a job to the best of their ability, is astonishing.

The stories of their feats of valor cannot ever be accurately numbered; so many have happened on a daily basis for centuries.  Paws Of Courage: True Tales Of Heroic Dogs That Protect And Serve written by Nancy Furstinger with a foreword by Ronald L. Aiello, President of the U. S. War Dogs Association (National Geographic, April 12, 2016) collects some of these finest achievements.  Readers will feel their admiration for canines growing larger and larger.

The bond between a military or law enforcement working dog and its handler is unlike any other and goes far beyond what one may imagine. 
                       Ronald L. Aiello

Divided into five sections, Historic Hounds, Battlefield Partners, To The Rescue, Leaders Of The Pack, and Canine Protectors this title presents specifics about twenty-four fabulous creatures.  While you may be familiar with Sergeant Stubby, a pit bull terrier mix serving in World War I, you might not know about a Yorkshire terrier named Smoky whose human, Corporal Bill Wynne, was serving in the Pacific during World War II.  This little dog actually crawled through seventy feet of eight-inch-wide culvert to string telephone wire underneath a vital airstrip!

The true devotion between dogs and their handlers is underscored repeatedly.  In the summer of 2012 in Afghanistan a film crew following the team of Air Force Staff Sergeant Leonard Anderson and his canine, a Belgian Malinois, captured Azza in action. The dog stopped just prior to a bomb being exploded by an observer. Leonard flew into the air suffering injuries to his legs and feet. Azza sought him first amid the chaos curling up at his side.  Azza saved his life.  A military dog was captured as a hostage, another rode on a float in the New Year's Rose Parade in California and many are trained to sky dive with their handlers.

As incredible as the first ten stories are, none of them will prepare readers for The Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs program.  The accomplishments of these mostly Newfoundland dogs, but some Labrador and golden retrievers, nearly defy belief.  Bretagne, a golden retriever, hero of 9/11 and more, Baxter, a Labrador retriever, best known for smelling old scents, and Sage, a border collie, hero of 9/11, Iraq and champion comforter to those with cancer (Sage had cancer at the time, too) left their mark of unwavering loyalty and affection with each human they encountered.

Did you know there are dogs trained to go into fire scenes to sniff out the possibility of arson?  Did you know working dogs can be adopted in their retirement by civilians?  Did you know dogs routinely work in airports every single day in shifts? Did you know there is a team of dogs trained to track poachers in an African national park?

K-9 units have been used for more than one hundred years.  The dogs' super sense of smell makes them invaluable in tracking criminals and in locating specific illegal items.  Many engaging in unlawful activities have been deterred by their very demeanor of serve and protect.  They like their military and search and rescue companions live to work, always on the job.

Nancy Furstinger's passion and compassion for her subject is noticeable on the first page.  The dogs' lives and deeds are related to readers in detail but as if we are absorbed in conversation.  She carefully weaves the place and time into her narratives.

Explanatory captions accompany each of the images.  Within the specific dog portions, above the main text, she has placed fascinating facts about that dog or working dogs in general. A technique similar to a FAQ asks questions about current military dogs with answers by Chief Petty Officer James Silvis of the U. S. Navy.  Furstinger also includes short pieces of information about each breed as it is introduced; their origin, color, height and temperament.  At the conclusion of each chapter readers are treated to more information under the headings of Military Mascots, Special Ops Canines, Making a Difference, Heroes of All Kinds and Train Your Own Hero Dog.  Here are some sample passages.

The Belgian Malinois is one of the top breed choices for Navy SEAL teams.  These fearless canines can rappel, parachute, and run twice as fast as an athletic human.

Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald picked the more stubborn dog as his new canine partner.  The trainer gave Julian a choice of two dogs and he spent hours with them, giving them both commands and practicing scenarios together.  "I liked how Layka performed and her overall stubbornness gave her that extra edge," Julian recalled.  Turns out, it wasn't just helpful but the key to saving Julian and protecting a whole squad of soldiers while serving in Afghanistan.

But all of a sudden, a dark snout with pointy ears appeared in the window.  It was Kristen's German shepherd partner, Xanto.  The protective police dog heard the commotion and began barking and jumping around inside the vehicle, violently shaking the patrol car, like a monster waiting to be unleashed.  

Paws Of Courage: True Tales Of Heroic Dogs That Protect And Serve written by Nancy Furstinger will have you turning pages faster than a dog can gobble up a biscuit.  It would be wise to plan on multiple copies for its appeal to dog lovers and readers who enjoy short, informative and captivating chapters.  The 157 pages are plentifully illustrated on colorful backgrounds with a pleasing design and layout; dog tags for chapter name titles, stars beneath short facts, and tabbed extras looking like file folders.  At the end are a short bibliography of further titles, National Geographic reference tools and a list of organizations mentioned in the text.

To discover more about Nancy Furstinger and her other work please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Nancy Furstinger supplies the pronunciation of her name at TeachingBooks.net.  Enjoy the video below.

Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by Alyson Beecher to check out the other titles listed by bloggers participating in the 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


  1. Finally came up for breathing space and read your fab review (which I sent to my Nat Geo editor)--4 paws up! Great to emeet you on Twitter and that's my tag on Facebook: a passion for compassion!

    1. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I know your book is going to be a hit with readers. It is great to meet you too.