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Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I (Dog…
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Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I (Dog Chronicles)

by Alison Hart

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I'm not a fan of the anthropomorphizing the author uses to tell the story from the dog's point of view, but it is an appealing, engaging story about a heroic dog. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
A war book that is not too graphic but does not gloss over the terrible things that happen in war. It is told from the point of view of Darling, a dog pressed into military service to help medics find wounded soldiers on the battlefield during World War I. There is a "history behind.." section in the back of the book with an additional bibliograhy of factual materials. ( )
  geraldinefm | Dec 6, 2013 |
Darling, a mischievous collie, must leave the children she loves, and who love her, to become a soldier for the British. The tax on dogs rose once again and the family could no longer afford to feed her. The military will train Darling as either a messenger dog or a sentry dog, depending upon her skills. Darling’s best skill is her ability to run away. She likes to meet up with her friend Rags, who is a stray living alone in the chalk pits to avoid the dogcatcher who wants to send him to Battlesea Dog's Home, and the farmer out to shoot both dogs for trying to herd his sheep.

The first chance she had to run back home she would. Darling got that chance several weeks later at a final test, but turned around when she heard her handler and knew he was hurt. She failed the test, but a new position had been established and Darling seemed a perfect fit. The mercy dog worked on the front line--in "no man's land." The dogs were sent into the battlefield to find wounded soldiers. The dogs would return and then lead the medics out to the injured man. They brought the injured back on stretchers, following the dog to get back.
Darling worked the front lines magnificently, until she was hit with a bullet, several times. She was taken to the vet clinic set up back at the base camp. But if Darling did not get better, if she grew lame, if she could no longer perform the duty she was trained for, the military would reward her previously courageous acts that saved many men by shooting her. This happened to the horses as well. Rather than returning the dog to its owner. This is the saddest reality that many of the more than 7000 dogs that served in British military in WWI.

Mesmerized by Darling’s story from the first time she ran off to play with Rags I could not put the book down. There were no other dogs in a village that had many before the First World War and the subsequent dog tax families had to pay in order to keep a dog. Most could hardly afford to feed their dog. The police shot all strays they came upon. The dogcatcher put the dogs in the Battersea Dog Home, a place Darling does not describe with endearing terms. Nearly every dog put into the home were recruited into the War Dog School.

This is new to me. I had no idea dogs played such a crucial role in the war. Considering the dogs’ vital roles as messengers, mercy dogs, and sentries, how could they not be in our children’s history books? Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I is the book to supplement history texts. Narrated by Darling, her point of view is much less harsh than any human’s would have been, making it easier to present this material to kids. The war and all its horrors are still in the story, mainly from Darling’s less graphic perspective. After Darling’s story, the author wrote down some of the history of military dogs, describes a soldiers life in the field, some “Cool Facts," and more about the Battle of Messines Ridge in 1917, on which this story is based. Darling is an amazing dog who never forgot about the two children she loved, and who loved her. This historical fiction book should be on every required reading list for kids age eight and up.

originally published on Kid Lit Reviews link: http://wp.me/p1sRJW-35H ( )
  smmorris | Oct 13, 2013 |
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In Cosham, England, in 1917, Darling, a mischievous collie, must leave the children who love her when she is chosen for training as a mercy dog, seeking out injured soldiers on the battlefield and leading medics to them.

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