Darling, Mercy Dog of World War 1 by Alison Hart
When we meet Darling she is a household pet doted on by the children of a British family. Darling spends her days plotting to join her homeless pal, a rat terrier named Rags, in pursuit of neighborhood mischief and nabbing treats from the local butcher.
There comes a point where Darling’s family can no longer afford the dog tax to keep her as a pet, so she is volunteered for duty with the British military. Initially Darling fails her training as a messenger dog, but is saved by a sergeant who recognizes she could be perfect as a Mercy Dog.
Darling serves her wounded soldiers with the kind of courage and devotion only dogs are capable of giving. When she is wounded in battle her sergeant knows she will not be able to return to duty, and will likely be destroyed rather than sent home. But loyalty being what it is, he is determined to save Darling yet again.
I was not familiar with Mercy Dogs, so I found the historical aspect every bit as interesting as the fictional story. During WWI Mercy Dogs were sent into the battlefields carrying water and first-aid supplies in saddlebags. Wounded soldiers could help themselves to the medical supplies. The dogs were trained to recognize a pulse, and run to “notify” their handler of the more seriously wounded soldiers in need of stretcher bearers. I imagine soldiers beyond saving may have shared the comfort and company of a Mercy Dog, so they were not alone as they passed away.
I think Darling does a wonderful job of introducing WWI history to children without being too frightening or graphic. They will get a good sense of what both the soldiers and dogs faced in battle. The final section of historical facts and other suggested resources adds to the overall appeal of the book.
Order in Bibz.