Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam
By Cynthia Kadohata
Pub: Oct 2008
This book tells the story of a Vietnam War hero...well, two actually and one isn't human. It's told from two points of view. A young soldier named Rick Hanski and a German shepard named Cracker.
Rick was a small town man who was going to inherit his father's hardware store but that didn't interest him. Instead he enlisted in the military and ends up as a dog-handler but is paired up with the meanest dog in the division.
That would be Cracker who has a sad back-story. Originally an impressive show dog, an injury forces her out of the show circuit and she is given a young boy as a pet. Here she is happy but unfortunate circumstances put the boy's family into an apartment that doesn't allow dogs. With just a few weeks to get rid of the her, the boy, Willy, found an ad in the paper that said the US army needed German Shepards and Labradors to go to Vietnam. Shortly after, Cracker is taken away from her beloved boy and shipped off across the world.
She was unhappy and confused and snapped at everybody who came near her kennel, even biting one poor guy. Rick is assigned Cracker and attempts to win her trust. Finally cracker and rick became best friends and she would listen to every word he would say and she could find bombs, trip wires, and people she never made a mistake she was good. All training was done and they were off to Vietnam.
Ricks first mission in Vietnam was keep 40 men safe by finding booby traps and helping to set up ambush sights. Fast becoming the best team in Vietnam, Rick and Cracker are picked to go on a secret mission with Special Forces. Rick and Cracker have many great successes where Cracker shows her bravery but none are so impressive as when they end up being ambushed by the Viet Cong.
When they disembark off a helicopter on this particular mission, Cracker immediately knows something is wrong but no one will listen to Rick when he tries to warn his companions. Shortly after, shots ring out and the entire squad is peppered with bullets flying everywhere. Rick goes down wounded and Cracker immediately covers him with her own body to protect him. He needs to get to his weapon and fire back so he is forced to kick off Cracker who then runs off into the jungle.
After the battle, Cracker is no where to be found and while Rick wants to find her, he is too badly wounded and has to be taken away to get medical care. Cracker is gone and Rick is devastated. Weeks and months go by. Alone in the jungle, Cracker desperately looks everywhere for Rick.
Recuperating, Rick wants to look for her himself but his injuries prevent him from doing so. He calls in every favor and uses any connection he can think of to try to find her, buy nobody has any luck. And then...okay I can't give away the whole book. But for those who want a happy ending, I can assure you that you will be please with the final pages of the book.
The story has good action but it is the relationship between Rick and Cracker that holds your interest. I also enjoyed the insight to the Vietnam war and the dog handler division in our military. Adding Cracker's point of view works well in the story and never becomes silly or cheesy.
I highly recommend this book in general but if you're a dog (or animal) lover, you can't miss reading Cracker, The Best Dog in Vietnam, for a heartwarming and satisfying experience.