True Stories of America’s K9 Heroes
Lyons Press, Guilford, Connecticut, 2017, 184 pages
Book Review published on: January 5, 2018
Jeff Kamen authors a truly heartwarming account of the rewarding job of training K-9 unit dogs at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in Warrior Pups: True Stories of America’s K9 Heroes. He elaborates on the shared sacrifices of trainers and future military working dogs as they go through the process of learning how to become security dogs and how to detect explosives and enemy ambushes. Kamen highlights that the training facility breeds 20 percent of the Belgian Malinois trained there and adopts the remaining 80 percent from European dog brokers. He gives accounts of the successful graduates who go on to protect military forces across the world. Kamen also describes what happens to the 50 percent of puppies who fail the program.
The author is an accomplished journalist who took a month to fully immerse himself in the training program in order to describe and highlight the dedication required to nurture and train military working dogs. His photojournalist wife, as well as other volunteer photographers, captured compelling photographs that draw the reader into the stories. These vivid pictures keep the reader interested throughout the entire book.
Kamen’s anecdotal accounts of over twenty-five dogs, their handlers and foster families, and their training facilities effectively demonstrate what is required to train military K-9s. The author collaborated with an experienced U.S. Air Force colonel who served as a technical advisor on the book to ensure all of the accounts are accurate. The advisor, retired Col. Janet Detuva, worked with the dogs throughout her career, and she also adopted some of them after they retired.
The author walks the reader through short stories in each chapter to highlight different actors within the chain of people required to foster, train, utilize, and adopt military working dogs. The chapters do not chronologically describe the different stages of a dog’s career, but Kamen does make sure the reader understands the length of time required for each training section and the rest of their career. Members of the military, dog lovers, and students of history will enjoy this book as it accurately details the love, commitment, and true satisfaction of being part of the team. It also describes the dogs’ ultimate mission: to preserve human life.
One of the most memorable parts of this book is the tribute to fallen handlers and military working dogs. Since 11 September 2001, about sixty dogs and twenty-three handlers were killed in action while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan performing their mission of detecting explosives and enemy ambushes. This book helps pay tribute to their sacrifice.
This book only touches on the considerable monetary cost of running such a large training facility. With a $30,000 cost per dog, from birth through the advanced training portion, it adds up quickly. The kennel at Lackland Air Force Base and its annex is built to house over 1,100 dogs. It does, however, highlight resources for retired dogs to ensure they are taken care of until their death.
Warrior Pups is a very enjoyable book that is packed with emotion, great pictures, and detailed descriptions of all of the love and hard work it takes to raise and train military working dogs.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Cheryl Masisak, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas