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Speaking Volumes | Military celebrating canine contributions

Today is K9 Veterans Day. Although not yet an official holiday, this date was chosen to honor dogs in the military because March 13, 1942 marks the day the U.S. Army K-9 Corps was born.

With their keen sight and acute sense of smell, as well as their protective instinct and sometimes intimidating presence, dogs were a natural fit for all branches of the service.

First used as sentry dogs at supply depots, their roles expanded greatly over the years, and there are now an estimated 2,300 Military Working Dogs (MWD).

The library has several books about these brave K-9s. Here are just a few:

"The Dogs of War: The Courage, Love, and Loyalty of Military Working Dogs" by Lisa Rogak begins with a dog's-eye view of the May 1, 2011 mission to find and kill Osama bin Laden. Accompanying the U.S. Navy SEALS that night was a Belgian Malinois named Cairo.

He was equipped with a wireless transmitter in his ear, a camera between his shoulder blades, and a pair of Doggles (dog goggles). Cairo had been trained and prepared for any number of scenarios that could have unfolded that night. He was lowered from one of the Black Hawk helicopters during the raid and performed valiantly. Cairo returned safely, and later he was even introduced to President Barack Obama.

Cairo is just one example of an elite group of trained dogs serving in the military today. The book profiles nine other dogs, describing the amazing bond between these dogs and their handlers and the intensive training process.

Maria Goodavage's "Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca" is the incredible story of a beautiful and stoic German shepherd and Belgian Malinois mix. Trained to sniff out explosives, and unflinching through mortar attacks and fire fights, Lucca completed 400 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lucca's career ended when she lost a leg due to an improvised explosive device or "IED." Lucca received a commemorative Purple Heart, retired, and is now a beloved family member. Lucca routinely visits wounded soldiers, particularly amputees.

In the children's section of the library you'll find "Military Dogs," part of the "Dog Heroes" series written by Frances E. Ruffin. The book traces the contributions of dogs in the military from the World War II-era British Army "parapups" trained to jump from planes to today's canine soldiers fighting the war on terrorism.

If you enjoy audiobooks, check out "Buster: The Military Dog who Saved a Thousand Lives," written by Will Barrow, Buster's handler. Buster served in the British Royal Air Force. Buster was an English Springer Spaniel who completed five tours of duty in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq. Buster's specialty was sniffing out IEDs, weapons and other ammunition. After retirement, Buster lived to the age of 13 in Barrow's home in Lincolnshire.

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