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Dog-lover extraordinaire Tracy Libby has been writing about dogs for nearly 30 years. During book research, she came across a photograph of a disabled veteran in a grocery store with his service dog. The dog was trained to walk ahead of the veteran’s wheelchair, searching the aisles and alerting him to any potential threats. This clean sweep of the area helped ease the veteran’s post-traumatic stress disorder. Struck by this photo, Libby was motivated to write Reporting for Duty: True Stories of Wounded Veterans and Their Service Dogs (I-5 Press, 2015). We sat down with Libby to talk about her latest book.
Dogster: The book is quite extensive. How long did it take you to write it?
Tracy Libby: I spent about seven months completely immersed in researching and writing — 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week. Locating veterans who were willing to share their stories was challenging because many of them were, understandably, reluctant to revisit painful experiences and emotions. They shy away from being labeled a “hero” because, as they told me many times, they were “just doing their jobs” (and would gladly do it again — even knowing the outcome).
Some of the personal stories in the book are intense. Was writing the book emotionally difficult?
Yes and no. It’s impossible to speak with the veterans and not be moved beyond words. When you put a face to the name, it reminds us that this is real life. These are not actors in a movie, but real human beings who volunteered to protect our freedom. Remaining true to the individual stories while paring away much of the horrific encounters that many of them confronted on a regular basis was emotionally challenging for me as a writer.
What a privilege it must have been for you to meet such a diverse group of men and women. Does anyone stand out?
All of the veterans’ stories moved me in significant and meaningful ways. That said, with most of the World War II veterans now mostly in their 90s, I couldn’t believe my good fortune when Mr. Irwin Stovroff, a 93-year-old WWII veteran and ex-POW, agreed to speak with me. We marveled at the emotional love dogs provide on a daily basis and how — despite the medical and scientific technologies available — it’s the dogs who save the veterans’ lives, the dogs who pull them back from the brink of suicide. That’s pretty amazing.
Check out Reporting for Duty: True Stories of Wounded Veterans and Their Service Dogs on Amazon.
About the author: Jackie Brown is a freelance writer specializing in the pet industry. She lives in Southern California with her husband, son, and adorable Miniature Poodle, Jäger, who is obsessed with fetch and killing all the toys. She is the former editor of Rescue Proud, Dog World, and Puppies 101. Follow her on Twitter or visit her website.