Dogs have long been recognized as man’s best friend and we have all read stories about their extraordinary courage, loyalty and tenacity. Tiffin Shewmake’s book Canine Courage: The Heroism of Dogs has amassed many such stories from ancient times to today and compiled them into this fine emotional collection of stories of the unswerving love that many, or most, dogs have for their human masters and vice-versa.
Shewmake begins with an explanation of the difference between true "heroism" and the ingrained, innate behavior of many of the more popular breeds, and an explanation as to why dogs help their masters and how they know or seem to sense when such help is needed.
Through brief vignettes, the author touches upon the devotion displayed by many breeds and how far that devotion extends. Take, for example, the loyalty displayed by the dogs of ancient times and ancient myths. There is Cerberus, the dog who was believed by ancient Greece to guard the entrance to Hades. Then there’s Argus, the warrior Ulysses’ favorite mutt. These introductions to dog’s closeness to man have taken a forefront in much of the ancient literature known today. And the stories continue through the ages, right up to and including the twenty-first century. Take for a modern example the story of Lady, a dog who saved a little girl from being bitten by a rattlesnake.
The stories of loyalty and devotion are touching and sentimental, especially the tales told of dogs who belonged to men sent overseas to fight during World War II. There’s the story of a dog named Pal, a German Shepherd/Airedale who grew so melancholy when his owner left for war that he refused food and ended up suffering a stroke. The Red Cross managed to get a leave for the soldier, and upon his return the ailing dog perked right up and recovered. There’s a real tearjerker story about Bubbles, whose young master fell from his bike and was killed. Poor Bubbles, a little black and tan terrier, visited the boy’s grave, went home, laid down in front of the fire, cried a while, and then died from what seems to be a broken heart.
The author has put forth a great deal of research in organizing her book, and shares her wealth of knowledge in fine form. This book is a very well planned endeavor, and one that instructs as well as entertains. Canine Courage: The Heroism of Dogs is a wonderful, heart-warming book filled with stories that will encourage a wealth of emotions – make sure you have a box of tissues handy when reading, just in case.