Dogs in the military: Life saving companions

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Soldier Dogs book cover.

By: Ryan Vasso
For Pets Best Insurance

Maria Goodavage is a longtime blogger and recent author of the New York Times Best Seller, Soldier Dogs. In her book, she explores the life of dogs in the military, including a Belgian Malinois attack dog and a Jack Russell bomb sniffer. Pets Best Insurance sat down with Maria to ask a few questions:

PBI: Where does your passion to write about military dogs come from?

MG: My dad served in WWII as a young soldier. He would always tell us stories of how these military dogs would save peoples’ lives during the day and then come back to the camp at night and just be dogs. Since then, I have always thought military dogs are great.

PBI: What inspired you to write Soldier Dogs?

MG: Last year, when the Navy Seals raided Osama Bin Laden’s compound, it was leaked that a dog was with them. Everyone was a little surprised that dogs were still used in the military. I had already been writing about dogs in the military with Dogster, but now this was a chance to do something more – to give these dogs recognition.

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PBI: What did you learn after writing Soldier Dogs?

MG: I have even more respect for the dogs. I didn’t realize the incredible bonds the dogs form with their handlers. Currently, the U.S. military officially considers their dogs as equipment. We are working on legislation called Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act – it will classify them as canine members of the armed forces instead of equipment.
A soldier dogs stands guard.
PBI: What are your favorite moments while writing Soldier Dogs?

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MG: Besides watching so many handlers be emotionally connected to their dogs, I was able to participate with the training of a Belgian Malinois. I was standing there with this bite sleeve on my arm, waving it, and waiting for this dog who has this, “I’m going to get you look” in her eye. It was something I will never forget. The handlers do it all the time. But for me, as a reporter, it was really fun. It also made me realize the power of these dogs. My training dog was not big, or super young, but it still came barreling in on me.

Another moment was when I followed Lars, a tiny Jack Russell Terrier into a nuclear submarine. People don’t realize military dogs don’t have to be big and tough. Some dogs are in the military just to sniff and not to attack. Lars was originally supposed to sniff narcotics, but there was a mix-up in training school, and ended up being a bomb dog. So they had to figure out what to do with this one-foot tall bomb dog – so they used him on submarines. It was great to learn the military uses all sorts of dogs, not just the big guys.

PBI: Where can people go to purchase Soldier Dogs?

MG: They can go to my website, as well as online and local book stores. There is also an audio book version. In addition, people can go to my website to follow my Facebook page where I am constantly updating photos taken for the book.
A soldier dog gets in a submarine.

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PBI: Do you have any tips or suggestions on creating a successful blog?

MG: I know what it’s like to start from scratch and build an audience. There is emptiness and it’s hard. It helps to reach out to other bloggers. Find blogs or articles you like and make meaningful comments and try to connect with it. People are hungry for content – and that will help you get on the map. It’s a lot of work but it eventually pays off.

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