Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam

I was drawn to Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam not because I like dog stories--although some of my favorite books are dog stories (Love that Dog, Because of Winn-Dixie)--but because I really like Cynthia Kadohata. I enjoyed Kira-Kira and Weedflower, so I wanted to read her latest release--Cracker!

I also like historical fiction. Any time I can learn something about history and be entertained, I jump at the chance. When I realized that Cracker is told in 3rd person but gets inside of the head of the dog too, I was a little skeptical. Not because Kadohata isn’t a good storyteller—she is. I was just not crazy about reading about what a dog might think. But my skepticism didn’t last long. I was immediately drawn into the story about a German Shepherd who goes to Vietnam to sniff out explosives.

Cracker starts out as a young boy’s dog. Willie, the owner of Cracker, loves his dog very much. When his family must move, Cracker cannot go with them. Willie has read about how the war effort in Vietnam was looking for good dogs, so Cracker goes off to be trained for the war.

There he meets his new owner, Rick. Rick and Cracker head to Vietnam together, undergo many important missions, but the bond between the two grows stronger and stronger. This dog learns his job, but becomes closer than ever to his new master.

This is a work of fiction, but so many facts about the Vietnam war and dogs in the war are brought out. Scenes from the war front make the reader feel as though they are right there going through the drama, the suspense, and the fear with Rick and Cracker. I was completely drawn into the last part of the book.

Rick and Cracker have a bond that continues as strong as two comrades, even until the very end. What was amazing to me was the fact that many of the dogs used in Vietnam were euthanized or given to the Vietnamese after the war. Only a few were brought bag. Now, when the military uses dogs, they have a policy that “No Military Dog Left Behind.”

Link to Vietnam Dog Handlers Association

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