BOOK REVIEW: Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam

Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam

Good dog. Great book! Cracker! is an exciting story that will appeal to canine lovers of all ages. It’s also a good humane ed reading list choice for middle school-aged boys, who are so often reluctant readers.

Cracker the German shepherd must leaver her stateside family—and her beloved boy Willie–when the military puts out a call for trainable service dogs. Over the course of the book Cracker goes from a heartbroken and confused pup to a tough military scout dog, fiercely devoted to her handler, Rick.

The bond between Rick and Cracker is touching, and I appreciated that the author reinforced that even the toughest guys can love, and be gentle with, their animals. Through the characters’ words and actions, the author was also critical of the military’s cold approach to its service dogs during the Vietnam era.

One character states:

“They changed the policy with this war. The military considers dogs equipment, and equipment is expendable.”

Another exchange between characters goes thusly:

“They’re sending a few of the dogs home if they pass the health exams, but they’re either giving the rest to the South Vietnamese Army or putting them down.”
“The army’s putting down its own dogs?”
“Yeah, it’s the Vietnamization, man. They’re leaving behind or destroying unnecessary equipment.”

I think one would have an even more difficult time taking the view that animals are merely expendable, inconsequential “equipment” after reading about the Vietnam War dogs’ sad true history. Kadohata writes in an Author’s Note at the conclusion:

During the Vietnam War, dogs were considered military equipment; at the war’s end they were considered surplus military equipment. Although precise records were not kept, most historians agree that at least 4,000 dogs served during the war, and are credited with saving some 10,000 human lives. About 1,000 dogs died in the country from combat, jungle diseases, or other reasons. At war’s end, only approximately 200 dogs were reassigned to other US military bases. The remaining dogs were either euthanized or given to the South Vietnamese Army. The fate of those dogs remains unknown.

After the Vietnam War, military policy was changed to allow war dogs to come home. Today the policy is known as No Military Working Dog Left behind.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Hai Hansford
    Nov 13, 2011 @ 21:20:47

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is great blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.


  2. vlc
    Dec 17, 2011 @ 15:11:06

    Why didnt I think about this? I hear exactly what youre saying and Im so happy that I came across your blog. You really know what youre talking about, and you made me feel like I should learn more about this. Thanks for this; Im officially a huge fan of your blog


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