REVIEW: Paws of Courage: True Tales of Heroic Dogs that Protect and Serve by Nancy Furstinger

Paw25937972s of Courage: True Tales of Heroic Dogs that Protect and Serve by Nancy Furstinger
April 12, 2016
National Geographic
Goodreads | Amazon | Website

Entertainment level: A+
Service dog representation: N/A

Modern wars recruit more than just human soldiers. Our canine companions also serve in the line of duty and under fire, whether helping police protect our home turf or accompanying soldiers on missions abroad. Readers will cheer for the hero dogs featured in this collection, profiled with stunning photos and inspiring tales of bravery, friendship, heroism, and devotion. Their touching stories are sure to inspire animal lovers everywhere.


In celebration of Canada Day and the Fourth of July for our American friends, I’m reviewing a book featuring working dogs who serve and protect their nation.  This non-fiction book features stories of military working dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, water rescue dogs, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dogs, arson dogs, narcotics detection dogs and more!

A fun (true) fact about me — if I hadn’t graduated as a service dog, I would’ve studied to become a sniffer dog.  Honestly?  I’m pretty happy being a service dog, but sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to be a sniffer dog.  So this book was of particular interest to me because it offers an inside look into the lives of many other types of working dogs.

Service dogs are the complete opposite of aggressive, which, according to this book, is a trait that seems to be prized among military and police dogs.  We have to be super gentle with our partner while also being confident on the job.  But we seem to have at least one thing in common with our more aggressive, furry counterparts.

[Military dog] Stormy’s protection and comfort made our bond strong, one that binds a dog and handler together as lifelong companions and allies.  You learn to understand one another, and you realize that the dog will — without even a second’s thought — die for you.  And you realize that you would do the same.
– Ronald L. Aiello, President of the U.S. War Dogs Association

I know that for humans, a job is sometimes just a job.  But for working dogs, our job is wrapped up in our bond with our handler.  My dog guide trainer used to tell all of the students that the most important thing during team training wasn’t really learning all the commands and the protocol — though that’s obviously pretty important, too.  It was cultivating a strong bond with our partner and taking care of each other.

Case in point:

Suddenly, an assailant ambushed [military working dog] Layka.  He shot the brave dog four times at point-blank range.  Yet despite injuries to her leg and abdomen, persistent Layka attacked and subdued the shooter.  Her actions, which [her handler] Julian described as a mixture of “survival and instinct,” saved the lives of her handler and the other team members behind him.

I’m impressed, Layka!  And her story isn’t the only one of sacrifice.  Amazing!

I also learned some new things about deployed military dogs.

Some military dogs serving in the Middle East receive care packages containing cooling vests, special goggles, dog booties and special brushes to help shed their insulating undercoat.

Which brings me to my next point.  There’s such a thing as special ops canines.  I kid you not.  And they wear the coolest gear, accompanying Navy SEALS and other elite forces on all kinds of missions.  I’d recommend this book to you on that page (and picture) alone.

I haven’t even touched on all the types of working dogs described in this book, but I highly recommend this book for kids and adults, alike.  If you love dogs, and I’m assuming you do, check out this book!

And to all my fellow working dogs around the world, thanks for all the wonderful work you do!

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