Dogs of Courage: A Review


Lisa Rogak's 2011 book, The Dogs of War, has been followed up by a seeming sequel, Dogs of Courage: The Heroism and Heart of Working Dogs Around the World. Other authors have introduced us to dogs with careers (e.g., police dogs, assistance dogs, therapy dogs). Rogak’s approach is a bit different. Her dogs of courage go beyond the “professional” dog, as she expands her scope to include some “civilian” canines who have bettered a person’s life.

While most texts seem to focus on one area of dog work, say, search and rescue, Rogak exhibits a spectrum of working-class dogs, including those in public, private and military service, clarifying the expectations and demands placed on each type of dog. Each chapter gives insight into the way in which a dog is selected and trained for its duties and she is careful to dispel common misconceptions about the tasks these dogs do. This broad-approach works well, allowing the reader to get a fair bit of insight into a number of areas of canine work.

Rozak helps readers to think beyond their conceptions of a particular type of working dog, pointing out several examples of each type of dog. For example, when I think of medical detection dogs, I normally think of seizure detection dogs, maybe diabetic detection dogs. After reading stories like that of Boo, the peanut sniffing Saint Bernard that saved the life of a small girl, I have a new appreciation for the range of work these dogs do.

The breakdown of each area is humanized, helping the reader to fully-appreciate the necessity and contribution of these dogs. But, it is in the real-life stories of working dogs that we see the heart and devotion that makes this informational book endearing and memorable. Dogs like Bilbo, a lifeguarding Newfoundland who saved endangered (and sometimes not so endangered) swimmers. Bilbo not only helped to tow in fatigued swimmers with a float and harness device, but would block swimmers from going into the water if conditions were unsafe. It’s these stories, where the working dog utilizes not just training, but an animal’s intuition, that you will remember most.

It’s been a long time since I enjoyed a book on dogs as much as this one, but the depth and heart that is shared here makes it the sort of book I’m sure to pass on to other dog lovers.

Dogs of Courage: The Heroism and Heart of Working Dogs Around the World, Thomas Dunne Books - $10.98 at Amazon

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