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Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca Hardcover – October 23, 2014

4.9 out of 5 stars 261 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Top Dog

"An eye-opening account of the job these intelligent dogs and their courageous handlers do...[a] riveting title that is filled with excitement and heartbreak." -- Library Journal (starred review)

"Whether someone likes to read "war" books or not, this story is one that transcends "war." I have read nothing that so adroitly weaves together the relationship between our young warriors and man's best friend, from Iraq to Afghanistan and then coming home in body, mind and spirit. If I could write half so well and capture the essence of things largely left unspoken, I would write letters to God!" 
—Marine General James Mattis (Ret.)

"...an absolutely fascinating and an accurate portrayal of the importance of military working dogs and their handlers on today's complex battlefield. The book is extremely well written and skillfully paints the picture of the passionate relationship between military working dog and its handler. It has my highest recommendations." -- Army Lieutenant General Rick Lynch (Ret.)

"I LOVED Top Dog. With a single glance into Lucca's soulful knowing eyes, you will fall in love. Heartwarming and heart-rending until its joyous conclusion, Maria Goodavage brilliantly renders the growing love and loyalty between Lucca and her handlers -- a bond of such incredible strength it transcends war, distance, and time. Meet the amazing Lucca, and you will wish she was yours!"
—Robert Crais, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Suspect

“Maria Goodavage's Top Dog is a true war story with a heart as heroic and bold as any account ever told, only here the tale centers on a four-legged warrior, specifically one named Lucca, a courageous and stalwart war dog of incomparable bravery. This is no dry accounting of Lucca's service, but a gritty, boots-on-the-ground portrayal of what it means to share the battlefield with such a remarkable animal. Written with authority, warmth, and genuine honor, here is a story that not only needs to be told, but should be read by all. It's a new classic, one that will inspire everyone.”
—James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of The Kill Switch 

"A masterfully told epic of one of the canine heroes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I doubt many readers will finish the book with a dry eye--this veteran of 28 months in Iraq, for one, could not. Semper Fi, Lucca." —Col. (Ret.) Peter Mansoor, author of Surge: My Journey with General David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War

"Written like an adventure, with heart-pounding combat sequences, high tension, and suspense as well as moments of deep emotion and bonding, "Top Dog" is a must read for anyone who appreciates heroes of both the two-legged and four-legged kind." - Stanley Coren, author of The Intelligence of Dogs, How to Speak Dog, and others
 

Praise for Soldier Dogs:


“A moving portrait of the loyal, courageous, furry warriors who truly are an enlisted Man’s Best Friend.”
People

“A fascinating window into a different kind of military life.”
Booklist

“A well-deserved salute to the military’s ‘paws-on-the-ground heroes.’ ” 
Kirkus
 
“A must read — I say again must read — book if you have ever served anywhere they’ve had paws on the ground.” 
—David Reeder, Military.com

“[Soldier Dogs] is written in an easy and entertaining style and will acquaint you with dozens of canine heroes ranging from Stubby, who fought in WWI, to Cairo, who was a member of the raiding party that took down Osama Bin Laden. It is a great read for anyone who appreciates dogs and heroes.”
—Stanley Coren, author of How Dogs Think

“Inspiring personal stories of the many canine allies (and their handlers) who have dramatically enhanced military command units . . . [Soldier Dogs] examines how this indelible human-canine bond often transcends the atrocities of wartime violence.” —Kirkus Reviews

“If the idea of dogs at war conjures up thoughts of harsh methods and unrelenting discipline, think again. Maria Goodavage’s revealing and engaging book exposes the unexpected trust and affection that flows both ways between dog and handler. You may already care about dogs: This book will heighten your respect for them.”
—John Bradshaw, author of Dog Sense

About the Author

MARIA GOODAVAGE is the author of the New York Times bestseller Soldier Dogs and a former reporter for USA Today. She lives in San Francisco with her family and their dog.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton; SUPER CLEAN PAGES!!! edition (October 23, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525954368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525954361
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (261 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Maria Goodavage's Top Dog is an epic `hero's journey' that poignantly describes the deep bond of brotherhood, honor and love between the four-legged and two-legged warrior teams of military working dog and handler. `Mama' Lucca, a courageous, loyal and unfaltering war dog of incomparable bravery who worked alongside with her handlers in countless missions with Special Forces will have you enthralled from the first chapter. Beautifully told through the eyes of handlers Marine Staff Sergeant Chris Willingham and Marine Corporal Juan "Rod" Rodriguez, Lucca's unfailing courage and compassion reveal how the bond between working dogs and their handlers save lives both on and off the battlefield. I could not put this book down. You will fall in love. The indomitable spirit and courage of Lucca and the men who fight alongside her will inspire everyone. It is a tremendously compelling book."
~ Deborah Scranton, award-winning film director of The War Tapes and Earth Made of Glass.
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Format: Hardcover
"Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca" by New York TImes Best Selling author, Maria Goodavage will hold you captive from the moment you hold it in your hands. From the elite Israeli Oketz K-9 group to the battlefields of Iran and Afghanistan this book will keep you on the edge of your seat. You are guaranteed to laugh, cry and appreciate the amazing power of our Military K-9's who are truly the unsung hero's in the war against terrorism. You will not be disappointed. Lucca and all those who work with these incredible animals are the real American Hero's!! I love, love, loved this book!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Maria does a wonderful job of immersing the reader into the action. Lucca is one heck of a dog, and with Willingham and Rod she saved hundreds of lives and accomplished amazing things.
Throughout the story you will laugh, cry, and feel anger all due to the amazingly descriptive detail surrounding the training, actual work, and then warm embrace that the country gave to this wonderful dog for her commitment to protecting the US soldiers.
I highly recommend reading this account of an amazing dog!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
TOP DOG is such a wonderful book. Lucca and her handlers story captures you and does not let you go. There is such a reality to this story and a true understanding of what the subjects of this book actually went through. You are on the journey with them at times and feel the emotion they feel. The author did an amazing job of capturing the detail necessary to make this book a must read. I feel as though this book left me with a clear understanding of the relationship between the Military working dog, Lucca and her handler, what seems to be an unbreakable bond. Top Dog is so much more than a book about a dog, you meet Lucca's other dog friends in the story along with their handlers, you truly get the whole picture of what these amazing animals do and how valuable they are to our Military.
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Format: Kindle Edition
It seems fitting that this review of Top Dog (Lucca’s story) coordinate with Veteran’s Day. After all, Lucca and her handlers, Willingham and Rodriguez, are heroes worth honoring.

I first learned of NY Times bestselling author Maria Goodavage because of my love for dogs (as she used to run Dogster.com). We chatted a few times by email. Not only had I written a dog-themed devotional and a series of dog rescue stories, but I was working on a novel whose protagonist was a former Marine turned single mom who was beginning a contract military working dog and police dog training business.

Goodavage’s first book, Soldier Dogs, was a must read for me and not only did I find it riveting, it also solidified some of my research and knowledge about military working dogs. So, when she announced the release of Top Dog, I knew I had to read it, too. And I’m so glad I did.

Top Dog is the story of Lucca, a four-legged warrior. Lucca is a German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix who is partnered with Marine Staff Sergeant Chris Willingham. Their attachment goes soul-deep from training to the trenches. The two are inseparable and work in tandem amid the dangers of battle, trying with all their resources to save lives and knowing not every effort will have a successful outcome.

Goodavage’s writing connects us immediately with Willingham and Lucca. We feel the camaraderie between them. It beats like one heart as the two move through one adventure after another during two deployments. When Goodavage takes us into combat with them, the inherent danger and tension are tooth-grinding. Thankfully, she intersperses the reality of battle with brief respites of praise, recognition and fun. Never do we doubt Willingham’s commitment nor Lucca’s loyalty, obedience and drive to please.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished reading "Top Dog," the story of MWD Marine Hero Lucca K458. Maria Goodavage captured the spirit and essence of Lucca, her Handlers, war, the bond between all three and Lucca's well deserved Happy-Ever-After Retirement. It's a must read for all who love, honor, and respect the immeasurable accomplishments of Military Working Dogs and their Handlers. Quite simply, I loved it. Thank you Maria for taking us on this incredible journey with Lucca.
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