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Warrior Pups: True Stories of America's K9 Heroes Hardcover – September 1, 2017
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"Warrior Pups is an important and a fun read filled with great dogs and interesting people. It takes you places you otherwise cannot go--behind the scenes at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where America's Military Working Dogs are bred, nurtured and trained. There is a lot of love for the dogs and the brave handlers who must walk behind them into battle. You feel that love in the pages of this book. (John C. Burnam, author of A Soldier’s Best Friend)
"If you love dogs, and in particular, American Military Working Dogs and their heroic Handlers, Warrior Pups is the perfect book ... on how cute puppies become powerful guardians of our troops in the war against terror." --Dennis L. Fritz, Chief Master Sergeant, (USAF-Retired)
"A visually delightful romp with military dogs, from heart-melting puppyhood to the battlefield, and beyond.” (Maria Goodavage, New York Times bestselling author of Soldier Dogs, Top Dog, and Secret Service Dogs)
About the Author
Award-winning journalist Jeff Kamen is the co-author with Robert Kupperman of Final Warning: Averting Disaster in the New Age of Terrorism. His New York Daily News Magazine cover story, “Facing the Terrorists,” provided readers with extraordinary access to the NYPD’s storied Bomb Squad. His news reporting and documentaries on national security, law enforcement, race relations, and politics have been featured on radio TV and in print for more than forty years. Kamen has reported for NPR, NBC News, ABC and CBS Radio, CBC and Mutual News. Jeff's documentary, "Outside the Wire," for the Air Force won the top prize for Pentagon-produced films in 2005. Jeff's articles and commentaries have appeared in the New York Times, Dallas Morning News, LA Times, Newsweek, Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, the American Journalism Review and Penthouse magazine. Leslie Stone-Kamen, a photojournalist and retired Doctor of Oriental Medicine, is Jeff's partner in life and in Warrior Pups. Her favorite photo in the book captures the moment when the chief dog trainer at Lackland AFB reassured a puppy by crooning to him and rocking him in his arms like a baby. They live in Virginia.
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"Warrior Pups" is intensely personal as well as informative. It begins with the newborn puppies themselves and the whelping staff who devote so much time and care, bringing them into the world and keeping them safe for the first six weeks of their lives. The next step takes these small, still-fragile creatures to the volunteer foster families who will raise them with attention and boundless devotion. The stories of several fosters are shared here, but these serve as representatives for ALL of the many foster families who give such a significant part of their daily lives to each of these puppies. They do this, knowing from the first day that when the young dogs reach 7 months, they must be returned to Lackland for military training. It sounds a lot easier in theory than it turns out to be when that reality arrives. (You can trust me on that.) While this book depicts the pain and sacrifice of that “turn-in” moment, it also describes the pride these fosters experience by knowing they have raised a confident, healthy potential working dog for our military men and women.
It’s not all fuzzy, warm fun and games with these puppies. They are being raised as future warriors, not as pets. This is serious business; lives will depend upon these dogs. The authors explain through words and pictures how a vital partnership develops between the fosters and the BP staff. It is a demanding, carefully-crafted, skilled process led by Dr. Stewart Hilliard and his team of trainers and foster consultants. This group is given its due in this book—not with a paragraph or two, but with whole chapters containing extraordinary photos. The reader is shown, not simply told how this unfolds.
Once the puppies return to Lackland, they work for several months with specially chosen “puppy trainers” who adjust their methods to the developmental stages of these adolescent dogs. At about one year of age, the dogs that demonstrate potential for a working career are handed off to DTS (Dog Training School) where they will be carefully trained and finally certified in the basic skills they will need for more advanced training.
This narrative progresses to the careers of several successful MWDs in chapters featuring the stories of specific adult dogs with their handlers in the field as these human/canine teams do their vital work. The bond between an MWD and its handler is profound and evident in the photos and quotes of the men and women who intimately share and trust their lives with these remarkable dogs. It is estimated that each MWD will be responsible for saving an average of 150 lives. I’ve read that many times before, in other books, but in this one it becomes far more powerful and “real.”
MWDs receive amazing care throughout their service from fosters, handlers, trainers, veterinarians, vet techs, and especially from the animal care specialists who see to their daily and hourly needs at Lackland, 24/7, every single day. In the end, when retired, these special animals are frequently adopted by their handlers or former fosters to live out the rest of their lives in comfort and safety, doted on and respected for their years of service.
This book makes it all tangible, personal, and impactful in a way that none of the previous books on this subject have. It clearly and respectfully depicts the many, many pieces that come together to make this program so special—something that all Americans can cherish and be proud to support. While out in public, socializing and acclimating our foster puppies to new environments, I tell the many people who admire them that these beautiful, wonderful dogs <i>belong to every one of us.</i> They are American—born and bred in the U.S.A.
Thank you, Jeff Kamen and all who participated in this project, for giving us such a stunningly beautiful verbal and pictorial tour of the MWD Program. This book is clearly an act of devotion; it captures the spirit of the dogs and all of those involved with them, at every step of their journey.
For a couple of generations, I have competed against and partnered with WARRIOR PUPS author, the journalist Jeff Kamen. He always has been an aggressive and skeptical reporter. But in this book he has allowed himself to fall in love with his subject. I can see why. Jeff adores dogs, his country, and the military that protects it. Jeff and his photojournalist wife, Leslie Stone-Kamen, embedded at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where America's war dogs begin their careers. A pleasant surprise for Jeff was the Air Force decision to permit him and Leslie to go anywhere and talk with anyone in the US Military K9 universe headquartered at Lackland. No minders. No overt attempt to spin the outcome of his journalism. No censorship. After decades of reporting inside the Pentagon and other federal government redoubts, the Air Force's hands-off decision was culture shock for Jeff But he figured out the genius behind it. Jeff reports that "Lackland is a shining example of what our government does well. The Air Force had nothing to hide or spin because the K9 program is truly wonderful."
Jeff and Leslie are fit white-haired Americans in their early 70s. They stuck out at Lackland, especially when they first arrived. "It was like having our grandparents coming to work with us every day for a month," one senior instructor at Lackland's Dog Training School is quoted in the book laughing, "but you guys kept up with us, trying to learn everything about our work and our lives. It was like watching someone drink out of a fire hose. You and Leslie got soaked, but you stayed with it."
One of the editorial decisions made by Jeff and Leslie had me reflect on the nature of reporting and its impact on news makers and news consumers. On the advice of a famed, retired FBI agent who led America’s anti-terrorism efforts for twenty years, the authors have not used the last names of the Lackland-based people you meet in the book. "Lackland," writes Jeff, "is the very heartbeat of the US Military Working Dog team program. These K9 teams are hugely effective anti-terrorists. My deeply respected FBI friend warned me that using full names could give a local jihadist an easy-to-use target list. In recent years, single, lone wolf terrorists have killed or wounded more than 20 people in and around US military bases here in the United States. I honored my FBI friend’s guidance." Has Jeff unnecessarily edited himself? Perhaps. But the decision to omit surnames is consistent with the WARRIOR PUPS love affair.
This book is graced by the work of a highly talented photographer with a special feel for the subject. She is retired US Air Force Col. Janet Deltuva, a veteran of the medical leadership response to the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon. She was completing her MFA in photography when she met Jeff and Leslie at Lackland and signed on to support their project. Deltuva's lush photos on the cover and inside the book play a central role in making WARRIOR PUPS an enjoyable and informative experience.
If you have a passion for dogs, if you’re intrigued about how courageous dogs and humans come to function as teams, if you enjoy adventures shared by humans and their animal partners, if you are drawn to absolutely lovely and unusual photography of remarkable people and canines, this book is one you will read and read again, sharing it with everyone in your family.
Peter Laufer, University of Oregon journalism professor and author of The Dangerous World of Butterflies