On September 26, Skyhorse will publish Vets and Pets by Dava Guerin and Kevin Ferris. The book shares fifteen stories of American wounded warriors, veterans, and other service members and their service and companion animals, along with the nonprofits that make those unions possible.
Whether it’s Apollo the Doberman helping Tyler adjust to civilian life as a double-amputee, Vietnam vet Patrick finding relief from PTSD through birds of prey, Mandi healing with the help of potbelly pigs, or any of the other remarkable relationships in Vets and Pets, we’re happy to team with Dava and Kevin to spotlight some unity and hope in an increasingly divisive world.
We’re excited to give you a sneak peek by featuring some excerpts from the text, which we’ll do regularly until the pub date. You can check out Vets and Pets here.
From Chapter 8, The Navy Dog Handler: “This was love at first bite.”
Aaron stepped out of the Humvee with Yuma, got his gear together, and started walking. He began to talk to his spotters, not on the personal role radio (PRR) attached to his neck, but over his shoulder, assuming the Marines scanning the area for enemy activity and covering him were in earshot. But when he turned around he saw that he was alone, about twenty feet ahead of everyone else. Over the radio, the Marine said don’t worry, you’re covered — but from a distance. It was a way to minimize casualties should Aaron and his dog set off an IED.
“That was the first time I really felt like it was just me, just me and a dog, walking in the road in the middle of the sand in Iraq,” he said.
The spotters kept an eye out for people in the distance. Sometimes if a dog sensed explosives, it would sit. And those keeping watch would set off the IED then, knowing it had been discovered. Or they might just shoot the dog or the handler — there was a price on their heads because of their effectiveness in thwarting enemy attacks.
“It was like a movie, hearing all these voices in my head as I walked that 400 yards,” Aaron said. “It was insane and incredible and partly a rush. Just a plethora of emotions, and the convoy kept up with me as I was walking, but I really felt like that was my green mile.”
Whatever he was feeling on that long, lonely stretch of road — excited, nervous, and scared — he had to keep in check. He had to focus on looking for bombs, so the dog would too. “It’s like taking your child to war,” Aaron said. “If he’s spooked, you can’t control him, and then you’re going to be exposed while you’re trying to get your dog together and become an easier target.”
“If a kid falls off a bike and people make a big deal of it, the kid will pick up on that and start crying. It’s similar with a dog team. You learn to shut off your emotions in order to function. There is still a mission. You do whatever you can to make sure the dog can perform. Is it thirsty? Is it hot? Is it agitated? Are its paws blistered?
There’s a lot going on, constantly, including gunfire, explosions, and debris falling.”
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