War Dogs by Laurie Frankel

Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: war, PTSD, dogs, war crimes, violence, shootings, death.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars


This novel was donated to my little library and I couldn’t resist stashing it aside to read before I passed it along. As an animal lover, I was curious to learn more about working dogs and their relationships with their handlers in such difficult settings.

War Dogs is written memoir style, sharing what it’s like to be a handler or trainer and how their canines work through the ranks to become different types of war dogs. In the memoir, there is a lot of debate about what you would call the relationship between dog and handler- is it love, respect, a bond, or something else? Often, it was stressed that working dogs are not like your family dog, but they do have a tendency of becoming like a part of the family.

Each chapter went into detail about these bonds, and Frankel’s experience learning and working with these teams. She provided so many examples of dog and handler teams who had not only worked hard to become exemplary soldiers, but also leaders for whole squads as the first line of defense from the hidden dangers in their path. As Frankel explains, guerrilla warfare is the enemy’s weapon of choice, including hidden bombs, traps, and sneak attacks. These handlers and their dogs learn to sense their surroundings- the dogs relying on their keen sense of smell and eyesight, and their handlers relying on cues from their dog’s body language. The dogs were often the first to sense danger, and their quick tip off to the handler often saved a whole group of soldiers.

I really enjoyed the read, although there were many times where I teared up. It’s not a sappy dog and human memoir- it’s gritty, informational, and real. Frankel pulls no punches, and spares no detail. Of course, this is exactly the type of novel I love to recommend to friends- “Here, this book broke my heart so you have to read it too.” I’ve already passed it along to one of my coworker friends, whose husband is a K9 officer, with fair warning to stock up on Kleenex. I encourage all of you to give it a read too, and to keep those that sacrifice their lives- two and four-legged- in your thoughts.

Published: October 14, 2014

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

TL/DR: War DogsĀ by Laurie Frankel is a novel about the relationship and bond between man and dog, specifically in the course of training for combat situations.

Read it? Yes! It’s a must read for all animal lovers.

Recommend it? Yes, though be courteous of those who may have personal stories too closely associated with those discussed, as it could cause trigger reactions.

Buy it? I would borrow this one, as it’s a backlist novel, unless it really applies to you or someone you know- then go ahead and get yourself a copy.

If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar animal related reads:

  • The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts
  • Joey by Jennifer Marshall Bleakley

Categories: Animals, Book Review, Nonfiction

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