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Soldier Dog

Soldier Dog - Sam Angus Sam Angus centers her story around a little known aspect of World War I. I certainly didn't know that 100,000 dogs assisted the armies on the battlefield in a number of ways. This is the story of a young boy named Stanley Ryder who runs away to enlist and finds himself working with those dogs.Stanley had been living with his father who had lost himself in grief when his wife suddenly died and when his older son went off to war. Stanley's Da had turned bitter and angry and took out that anger on his young son. When Da's prize greyhound gets out and comes back bred by some local mutt, Stanley is left to care for the animal because his father refuses to take care of her or feed her. Stanley's relationship with Rocket is the only love he is getting in his life. When she has four puppies, his father threatens to drown them all. Stanley is closest to the only male who he names Soldier. He had to help the pup survive as it wasn't born breathing. When the pups are six weeks old, Da gives them away to the tinkers whose dog bred the mother but they don't want Soldier. When Da takes Soldier and Stanley thinks he has drowned him, Stanley decides that there is nothing left for him and runs away to join the army to find his brother Tom. Those must have been desperate times for Britain because, even though he is just fourteen, he is allowed to enlist. He is assigned to serve with a unit that is handling messenger dogs and is given charge of a dog named Bones. Again, because the situation is desperate for England, Stanley finds himself and his dog in France and in deadly danger. He continues his search for his brother but they keep missing each other. The war scenes in this book were graphic and chilling. When Bones dies heroically while trying to accomplish a mission, Stanley is devastated. However, despite his determination to go home, he is given another dog name Pistol who needs him as much as Stanley needs a dog to be responsible for.The two go through battles. Pistol is severely injured on the mission but manages to finish it with Stanley's help. Stanley is blinded by gas and has his lungs damaged too.He is separated from his dog and fears that the dog won't survive. Beyond the battles, this is a story of survival and love. It does have a hopeful ending. I think middle graders will take this story to heart. I recommend it.