7 War Books You Must Read

7 war books you must read

If for each war victim would a war book be written, then each one of these books would be a must read, in their honor, don’t you think? War stories, as we remember them told by grandparents, always had something nostalgic about them, although the brutality of war, in its essence, was remembered as a traumatic experience. Perhaps the nostalgia came from the people caught in battles, the friendship,the humanity that united them.

The richness of emotions that both warrior and narrator go through when dealing with this subject has fascinated plenty of authors throughout time. Perhaps for an author another intriguing aspect is the location, as war novels generally take place in territories far away, if not geographically then through their descriptions, full of blood and pain, love, loss and hope. Time frame presents an alluring aspect as well, a war story will have a before and an after, while characters don’t have to have come with a pedigree to be memorable. In a war story anyone can be a hero,a soldier, a child, a dog. War stories also stir issues connected with spiritual inheritance, loss of memory (spiritual or factual) and, last but not least, identity and humanity.

Essential in all the novels below is the viscerality of writing and the relentless way in which a war changes a man forever. Reading such a type of novel will raise many questions about our condition as people and will make you aware that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to an extreme experience, one having the potential for total transformation.

7 War Books You Must Read:

1 – Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

7 War Books You Must Read, Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

A book just as popular nearly one hundred years after publication, to me the main theme in Gone with the Wind is that of survival.

The novel combines several genres (psychological, buildungsroman, romance, historical ) and manages to create an unforgettable story, perhaps the most beloved story about the Confederate States of America. and it does this by the use of its main characters, especially Scarlett O’Hara.

The theme of survival and the reason for the courage that derives from it, the power to never give up as well as the unbridled passion of a young soul, the love for money and the saying “Tomorrow is another day”, plus the ability to identify, to some extent , with the characters of the novel, still make Gone with the Wind a modern work, although the historical background belongs to the American Civil War era of the United States history.

Do you know what inspired the title? It was a line from the poem Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson; the poem’s most famous line is: “I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind.”

“If Gone With the Wind has a theme it is that of survival. What makes some people come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong, and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; others don’t. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those that go under? I only know that survivors used to call that quality ‘gumption.’ So I wrote about people who had gumption and people who didn’t.’

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

2 -War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy

War and Peace, Lev Tolstoi, Napolon's invasion in Russia 1812

Praised for being very much in line with the reality, the events of War and Peace take place in 1812, during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, and were rendered with force and expressiveness by Lev Tolstoy, especially because the author already lived the experience of war, fighting in the Crimean War. It is recommended to read in episodes, taking into account the fact that the novel has over 1000 pages.

The novel is the chronicle of three families from the high Russian aristocracy of beginning of the 19th century, Rostov, Bolkonsky and Bezuhov, whose joys, love stories and dramas take place during the Napoleonic Wars, especially the Austerlitz and Borodino battles. The book raises questions about survival and death during peace and war, as well as the necessity of war. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia destroyed million of lives on both sides, and worth mentioning is that, beside he Russian lives lost, the French army lost about half a million of soldiers of French, Italian, Belgian, German and Austrian nationalities.

A definite whirlwind of love, loss, and war.

3 – A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

7 War Books You Must Read, A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway

Hemingway’s short semi-autobiographical novel takes place on the Italian front during the First World War and describes a man’s struggles with two experiences that altered his existence in one way or another: the experience of war and that of love.

But war offers fake hopes of glory and is a lover that does not accept sharing – only by turning into a deserter can the hero hope to find true love.

It is a manifesto against the absurdity called war; it is the story of an logical man who understands that his fulfillment as a human being stands above the ambitions of those who incite towards unnecessary battles, a fulfillment that can be achieved peacefully, without weapons and without sacrificing human lives.

4 – King Rat by James Clavell

7 War Books You Must Read, James Clavell, King Rat, WWII, Singapore death camp

Believe it or not, this was the author’s literary debut. Set during World War II, the novel describes the struggle for survival of American, Australian, British, Dutch, and New Zealander prisoners of war in a Japanese death camp in Singapore. Clavell himself was a prisoner in the notorious Changi Prison camp, where the novel is set. One of the three major characters, Peter Marlowe, is based upon Clavell.

Clavell’s King Rat is a story about the struggle for survival, about friendship and hatred, in an extremely harsh, dehumanized world, in which only the strongest resist.

5 – Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War by Giles Whittell

7 War Books You Must Read, A Bridge of Spies, Giles Whittell

This is actually a 2010 nonfiction book documenting the spy prisoner exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Tom Hanks does a magnificent job as James B. Donovan under Spielberg’s direction in the 2015 movie with the same title.

Bridge of Spies, remarkably researched, tells the true story of three incredible characters and those who cross their paths: William Fisher, alias Rudolf Abel, a British born KGB agent arrested by the FBI and jailed as a Soviet superspy for trying to steal America’s nuclear secrets; Gary Powers, an American U-2 pilot captured during a reconnaissance mission over the closed cities of central Russia; and Frederic Pryor, a young American graduate student in Berlin mistakenly identified by Stasi, East Germany’s secret police, as spy, arrested and held without charge. 

Bridge of Spies is a lesson on humanity tinged by the sour taste of pathological mistrust that fuels the arms race and the political espionage.

6 – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, Russia invadin Afghanistan, 1979

This contemporary novel exploring the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the years-long struggle the Afghan people was faced with, resulting in the flight of refugees to Pakistan, Iran or America. Told through the voices of two mercenaries, the book demonstrates that although conflicts and wars change over time, carnage and destruction always remain the same.

7 – Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for by Patricia Furstenberg

7 War Books You Must Read, Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for Patricia Furstenberg

Silent Heroes looks at the War in Afghanistan through the eyes of those caught in it: US Marines, local population, and even the Taliban.

If in other novels that talk about war the collective drama is the main focus, which seems to crush the small pains of the individual, Furstenberg focuses on human interactions, placing great emphasis on the turmoil the heroes go through, be it US Marines or the Afghan populace. Silent Heroes underlines how family ties and love are the reality that will never be obliterated by war and it will always stand, no mater what forces will try to overpower life on earth.

A book not to be missed, Silent Heroes is masterfully researched and punctuated with epic description that offer a respire from the harsh realities of war. A story about humans, but about dogs too, especially the military dogs taking part in wars.

Chose as one of the 5 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime.

5 books everyone should read in their lifetime
5 books everyone should read in their lifetime, Jodi Picoult, Ken Follett, Patricia Furstenberg, Victor Hugo, Shantaram

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10 Dogs Who Made and Changed History

amazing dogs from history, dogs who changed it

There is so much to learn from history and dogs, so this time we will look at (only) 10 dogs who made and changed the history.

Dogs are Man’s Best Friend, as Illustrated by Art, dogs joined Kings in battles, they fought in trenches during WW1, helped as messenger dogs, sled dogs, or were simply cute war mascots. Dogs fought along soldiers during WW2, starting the history of the first K9 Unit, dogs became paradogs, suffered during the WW 2, and still went on, after the fall of Berlin Wall to become brave military working dogs during the Gulf War, Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan.

Below are a few stories focused on unbelievable dogs who contributed to the enrichment of scientific data, the settlement of conflicts, and the onset of real state crises.

Peritas, Alexander the Great’s dog

From 356 BC comes Peritas, the puppy with a name worthy of the companion of a true leader. Peritas was Alexander the Great‘s dog, some call him a gladiator dog, who accompanied him during his military exploits. The name Peritas seems to come from the Macedonian word for January.

During the attack of the Persian troops of Darius III on Alexander the Great, Peritas jumped and bit the lip of an elephant that wanted to attack its master. Due to his faithful servant, Alexander survived and carried on his dream of conquering the world through.

Peritas could have been a Molossian, a breed of ancient Greece believed to be the the ancestor of the Mastiff. But Peritas could have also been the greyhound that Alexandre brought up himself.

10 Dogs Who Made and Changed History, Peritas of Alexandre the Great
Peritas, the dog who jumped and bit the lip of an elephant that wanted to attack its master, Alexander the Great

Donnchadh, Robert the Bruce’s dog

Donnchadh was the dog of Robert I of Scotland, or Robert the Bruce. It is said that what inspired Robert to never give up was watching a spider spin its web, while others say it was his dog.

In 1306, Edward I of England was fighting to overthrow Robert because who was advocating for Scottish independence. Edward had already captured Robert’s wife and faithful dog, so he came up with a devious plan. He was going to use Donnchadh, Robert’s own dog, to track him and catch him. Unaware, Donnchadh did led the king to the target, but then he turned on the English soldiers, defending his master. Robert escaped and lived to be King of Scotland for two decades.

Although four centuries later, the actions of the reckless George III, a direct descendant of Robert, who passed an act taxing tea in the colonies was the seed that bothered the American settlers enough to revolt. So this is how a Scottish doggo is one of the dogs who made and changed the history – of the United States, in his case.

Donnchadh, the faithful dog who saved the life of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland, 10 Dogs Who Made and Changed History
Donnchadh, the faithful dog who saved the life of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland. Source Hulton Archive

Urian, Cardinal Wolsey’s dog

14th century Urian is said to have been the dog that determined the rupture between England and the papacy.

Wishing to separate from Catherine of Aragon (who could not produce a son and heir), King Henry VIII sent Cardinal Wolsey (lord chancellor and chief adviser), to discuss with Pope Clement VII his marriage annulment. Cardinal Wolsey brought his beloved dog Urian along. When the Pope, who supposedly was siting on his throne, extended his big toe to be kissed by the Cardinal, as it was customary, Urian mistook the scene for an attempt at his beloved master’s safety. And he took a mouthful at the Pope’s foot. Needless to say, Henry lost any chance at an annulment.

Because of the Catholic Church’s refusal, Henry later founded the Anglican Church, declared himself head of the Church of England and appointed his own clerics who, of course, declared Henry’s marriage to Catherine invalid. Apparently Urian was a greyhound.

The Dismissal of Cardinal Wolsey by 
Laslett John Pott, 10 Dogs Who Made and Changed History
Potter, Laslett John; The Dismissal of Cardinal Wolsey – and his dog Urian, who bit the Pope’s foot

The Silent Hero puppy who saved Napoleon Bonaparte

Even though he is an anonymous hero, I believe that the puppy who saved Napoleon from drowning in 1815, right after his escape from Elba Island where he’d been imprisoned by the Allies, deserves to be included among the other dogs who made and changed the world history. Perhaps this Newfoundland pup played one of the biggest roles in the history of Europe and that of the world.

Napoleon was aboard the Inconstant, a brig of about 300 tons, sailing over a rough Ligurian sea, when he fell overboard. A fisherman and his young but sturdy doggo were on board and the canine followed his instincts, jumping in the foaming waters to rescue the 41 years old Napoleon. Napoleon entered triumphant in Paris, but one hundred days later he was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and exiled by the British to St. Helena island where he lived till his death, six years later.

Waterloo was the turning point that dictated the course of subsequent world history, as after Waterloo and until the start of WW1 Europe witnessed a short time of peace, prosperity and progress.

Napoleon’s return from the Isle of Elba. Napoleon’s ship Inconstant, on the right. Painting by by Ambroise-Louis Garneray
Napoleon’s return from the Isle of Elba. Napoleon’s ship Inconstant, on the right. Painting by by Ambroise-Louis Garneray

Smoky, the dog given a second chance during WWII

Smoky was a hairball, a Yorkshire Terrier with a huge heart who contributed to the new US Air Force base during World War II. Smoky was found in an abandoned foxhole in Papua New Guinea by the American soldiers stationed there and was adopted on the spot. When the company moved to the Philippines during the island hopping, Smoky moved too. So it happened that the soldier who had to set base at Luzon had to pull a telegraph wire and the only way to do it was through a narrow, 21-metre pipe. And Smoky helped, being just the right size to crawl through with the wire attached to her collar.

The airbase remained safe and operational.

10 Dogs Who Made and Changed History, WWII Smoky
Smoky, the small dog with a bih heart who helped set up an US airbase during WW2

Jofi, Sigmund Freud’s dog

I think that Jofi, Sigmund Freud‘s puppy, is a dog who should have been given more recognition so I’ll include him along the dogs who made and changed the history, psychoanalysis in his case. But aren’t most dogs like this? Freud often took Jofi to his office during therapy sessions, then noted his observations, convinced that Jofi helped patients relax.

Freud’s notes laid the foundations of modern animal-assisted therapy.

Jofi & Sigmund Freud, 10 Dogs Who Made and Changed History
Jofi and Sigmund Freud

Charlie, the dog who helped defuse the Cuban Crisis

Charlie was a Welsh terrier and one of Kennedy family’s beloved dogs.

During the 1962 Cuban crisis (remember that the Soviet Union deployed some intercontinental ballistic missiles on the island of Cuba, only 144 kilometers off the coast of U.S.) President Kennedy lived some stressful days, trying hard not to start a nuclear war. It was during one of these moments that President Kennedy asked that Charlie be brought into the overheated War Room. The president took him in his arms and caressed him, which helped him calm down. In the end, Kennedy announced that he was ready to make a decision. A decision that defused the conflict.

As a peace offering following the Cuban crisis, Nikita Khrushchev, Russian Premier at the time, gifted young Caroline Kennedy a white puppy named Pushinka, from the litter of famed space dog Strelka (part of the Sputnik space program). Pushinka and Charlie later had four puppies that Kennedy called “pupniks.”

Charlie and Pushinka on the South Lawn - White House, after the Cuban Crisis.
Charlie and Pushinka on the South Lawn of the White House a few years after the Cuban Crisis

Robot, the dog who discovered the Lascaux Cave

Robot and his owner, teenager Marcel Ravidat, were exploring the surroundings of their village of Montignac, southwest France, in 1940 while France was fighting in the World War II.

Suddenly Robot spotted a rabbit, chase after it but the game was soon gone down a rabbit hole. Although it appears that the four boys were actually intrigued by an old legend about a tunnel running under the Vezere River linking the old Castel of Montignac to the Manor of Lascaux. Ravidat threw some stones down the hole and a great echo returned. A few days later the teenager returned with a few friends and with ropes and they climbed down the hole only to discover an incredible amount of colorful murals perfectly preserved within a cave. Later study showed that this artwork was in pristine state as it had been protected from water by a layer of chalk, and that the paintings had been created during the Paleolithic era, between 30,000 to 12,000 B.C.E.

Some say that Robot the dog was not the one to discover the cave, some dispute the year when the caves of Lascaux were first spotted, but it does make sense to have a dog chasing a rabbit down the rabbit whole, towards amazing wonders.

The discovery of Caves of Lascaux is crucial because it helsp us understand what stood at the center of life of our paleolithic ancestors, hunting and religious rites. That perhaps such drawing guaranteed them plentiful herds and good hunting.

Robot, the dog who discovered the Lascaux Cave

Cairo, the Military Working Dog who found Osama bin Laden

Cairo was a Belgian Malinois Military Working Dog, MWD, who together with his military human handler and SEAL Team Operator Will Chesney were part of the famous attack on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in 2011.

Navy SEAL Will Chesney met MWD Cairo in 2008 and shared many missions together in Afghanistan, forging an impenetrable bond. Working with Cairo, Chesney saw firsthand how valuable dogs are, when on multiple missions Cairo’s keen senses saved Chesney’s life and the lives of his team members. Cairo was even shot in the chest and leg, but made a full recovery and the two were deployed to Afghanistan again, they were that good and their country needed them.

In 2011 Chesney, Cairo, and a two dozen Navy SEALs team were sent after Osama bin Laden in what was known as Operation Neptune Spear. They stormed Osama bin Laden’s secret compound in Pakistan on May 2, 2011. Chesney and Cairo were the only canine team on the mission as main job was locating hidden enemies. It was for sure the most dangerous and the biggest mission in history. None of the SEALs involved expected to survive the raid, but the thought of taking out the terrorist responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians overpowered any trace of anxiety or self-preservation.

Cairo always fed off everybody’s energy. Your emotions run up and down the leash. If you’re mad, the energy is going to run down that leash. For Cairo, it was just another day at work‘ (Will Chesney).

It is said that when a military dog handler puts their bullet-proof vest on, the MWD they team with knows right away they’re working, and when the human handler takes off the vest, the dog knows it is playtime again.

Cairo faced a well deserved retirement in 2013 and, finally he was adopted by his best friend Chesney. I think that you will agree that Cairo deserves a place of honor between the dogs who made and changed the history – for the good.

Cairo-WillChesney-UnitedStatesNavy.jpg

I wish my list was longer.T here are millions of dogs who made and changed the history, be it that of a community, of a nation or of the world, but the silent heroes that share our lives are also changing the history, with their genuine care and unconditional love, our personal history.

Books by Patricia Furstenberg on Amazon
You will discover at least a dog in each one of my books. Joyful Trouble and Silent Heroes two of my novels available on Amazon.
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Therapy through Books. Bibliotherapy. Reading to stay Happy

Therapy through Books. Bibliotherapy. Reading to stay Happy

I turned to books and reading, as well as writing, many times over in my life, yet only lately have I thought about the idea of therapy through books and reading to stay happy.

Yet I am not the only one, nor am I the first, as since ancient times people have noticed the amazing healing power of art. As if by magic, negative emotions, whoosh, evaporate to be replaced with a state of peace and harmony.

Catharsis. Coined by Aristotle in Poetics to describe the effects of tragedy on the spectator, that of freeing the soul from suffering.

Bibliotherapy (book therapy, poetry therapy or therapeutic storytelling) uses creative arts as therapy. It involves storytelling, the reading of poetry or specific texts with the purpose of healing. It works by utilizing an individual’s relationship with the content of a text as therapy. Bibliotherapy is often combined with writing therapy. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression.

You see, the concept that books, library therapy, bibliotherapy or reading can be used to stay happy started a few thousand years ago.

Therapy through Books Bibliotherapy Reading to stay Happy
Psyches Iatreion, Healing Place of the Soul

The inscribed marble above reads Psyches Iatreion, Healing Place of the Soul, and is found in the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, Patmos, in the wall over the entrance to the Monastery’s Library. The inscription goes millenniums back. The same phrase was inscribed above the entrance of the sacred library of the tomb of Ramses II at Thebes. A similar one decorated the vast library of Alexandria, the largest and most significant library of the ancient world.

A very quick look at books, reading and their use as therapy throughout the centuries

Fast forward a few hundred years and we find the majority of Medieval people (men, women and children, rich and poor) to be illiterate, yet storytelling prevailed as people loved to hear stories, enjoyed listening to historical, religious or local folktales being read to them or simply recounted. It taught them lessons and morals, it connected them with their ancestors.

Worth remembering is that while most women living between the Dark Ages and the Age of Enlightenment could not write or sign their names, many could read, to some extent.

Then Gutenberg came, developing a press that mechanized the transfer of ink from movable type to paper. Printing was easier, faster.

Therapy through Books Bibliotherapy Reading to stay Happy
The Magdalen Reading (1438) – Rogier van der Weyden

And humanity dipped its foot in the Renaissance, freighted with famous writers, treasured texts, and a general curiosity about humankind. The Renaissance Man. Highly skilled writers (who were readers too) emerged, yet none was just a writer if one wanted to make a living.

The Enlightenment brought along the development of the educational systems in Europe that continued into the French Revolution, so literacy and learning were gradually provided to rich and poor alike. But bear in mind that historians measured the literacy rate during the 17th and 18th century centuries by people’s ability to sign their names.

The increase in literacy rate was mostly influenced by the fact that most schools and colleges were organized by clergy, missionaries, or other religious organizations, as literacy was thought to be the key to understanding the word of God. The reason which motivated religions to help to increase the literacy rate among the general public was because the bible was being printed in more languages. By 1714 the proportion of women able to read was approximately 25%, and it rose again to 40% by 1750, with literacy rates raising more quickly in predominantly Protestant Northern Europe than predominately Catholic southern Europe.

It was the Kingdom of Prussia who introduced a modern public educational system that will reach the vast majority of population, a system copied across Europe and the United States in the 19th century.

19th century medics and nurses working England’s psychiatric hospitals used to read to patients anything from novels and travel journals to the Bible. This was because works of fiction lend a helping hand to the readers (listeners) by giving them the opportunity to escape into another universe, to identify with a favorite characters (outside their own skin) and to be inspired by them.

World War II veterans were also recommended books to help them cope with post-traumatic stress.

Therapy through Books Bibliotherapy  Reading to stay Happy
When Books Went to War cover.

Today, reading clubs are a real help to psychiatric institutions in improving the care for the elderly or for young people with disabilities or behavioral disorders.

What is the connection between books, therapy, bibliotherapy and that happy feeling?

A research done by the University of Sussex and quoted by The Telegraph showed that only six minutes of reading a day can reduce stress level with up to 68 %. Keeping an active mind proved protective against the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) later in life.

Simply turning the pages of a book and immersing oneself in reading gives the brain a state of relaxation similar to that produced by meditation, providing our health system with the same benefits as those of achieving a state of deep relaxation and inner calm. It has been found that people who read regularly sleep better, have lower stress levels, a higher self-esteem and are less predisposed to depression than those who do not have this habit.

Could there be more to paging through a book than the joys of reading?

Reading is often associated only with relaxing activities, with spending time in a pleasant way. But, in reality, reading is a very complex activity.

The University of Liverpool conducted a study between reading and increasing the quality of life and found that reading is not only good for our health, but can make us happier and more empathetic. In addition, many of participants in the study confessed that certain books inspired them to make those changes in their lives that they had long wanted to make.

Psychologist Becca Levy, an associate professor at Yale University, published a study in the Social Science & Medicine journal on the benefits of reading observed over twelve years. The conclusion is impressive: people who read regularly live 23 months longer than those who do not. Although it is not yet clear how reading can actually increase life expectancy, Dr. Levy and other scientists who participated in the study believe that it is due to the cognitive benefits of this activity – from the simultaneous integration of several brain regions and increased ability to concentrate , to the development of empathy and emotional intelligence.

Could there be more to paging through a book than the joys of reading?
Carturesti Bookshop in Bucharest (one of them 🙂 )

How is all this possible?

Keith Oatley, a writer and professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, has led an extensive research on the psychology of fiction. “We started to show how identification with fictional characters appears, how literature can improve social skills, how it can move us emotionally and can quickly cause changes in the process of self-knowledge,” says Keith Oatley. After years of research and study on large groups of subjects, the Canadian psychologist concluded that reading fiction is “a simulation, but not on a computer, one that takes place in our minds – a simulation of our interaction with others, with the society, which implies the possibility to imagine our future under different variants.”

So, even if we do not realize this, when we read we experience hypothetical life situations that prepare us for the real ones. The advantage is that in the realm of fiction we do it without danger and without pain.

And so is writing.

I will leave you with Proust’s words:

“In reading, friendship is restored immediately to its original purity. With books there is no forced sociability. If we pass the evening with those friends—books—it’s because we really want to. When we leave them, we do so with regret and, when we have left them, there are none of those thoughts that spoil friendship: “What did they think of us?”—“Did we make a mistake and say something tactless?”—“Did they like us?”—nor is there the anxiety of being forgotten because of displacement by someone else. All such agitating thoughts expire as we enter the pure and calm friendship of reading.”

Marcel Proust

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7 Dogs That Left their Paws on History

7 dogs that left their paws on history

Today I take a break from writing fiction about dogs to take a closer look at a few canine mementos, more exactly at 7 dogs that put their paws on history – and on the reader’s hearts.

One of my all time favorite poetesses, Emily Dickinson, wrote once that ‘dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell,’ while Eisenhower, America’s 34th President, believed that ‘what counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.’

Take a moment to think of your favorite childhood story. Mine was about a sausage dog called Fridolin and chances are that, your too, was about the friendship between a man and an animal. Any parent or educator learns at some stage that the best way to convey a lesson to a child is through a story involving animals. It is based on the animal kingdom that the most valuable lessons about loyalty, trust, sacrifice and unconditional love come.

When it comes to their relationship with humans, dogs have followed a millennial, a fascinating journey that won them the nickname of man’s best friend, a path one that fed many bedtime stories for young and old alike. Furthermore, be it a puppy, a doggo or a bud, they became famous characters in literature and cinema and there are canines who have taught us powerful life lessons about what loyalty and love means. And let’s not forget the bravest hounds who helped the people in rescue operations or proved their courage on the front or behind enemy lines and even across no man’s land.

Sergeant Stubby, or when the size doesn’t matter (1916 – 1926)

Sergent Stubby, hero dog, 7 Dogs That left their Paws on History
Original caption: Washington, DC: Meet up with Stubby, a 9-year-old veteran of the canine species. He has been through the World War as mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division. Stubby visited the White House to call on President Coolidge. November 1924

Stubby certainly holds the record for receiving the most medals World War I. Stubby the puppy looked like a Pit Bull Terrier mix and was found wandering the grounds of the Yale University campus in July 1917 while members of the 102nd Infantry were training so he soon became their mascot. But Stubby also took part in numerous battles during which he helped discovering, capturing, and alerting the Allies to the presence of German spies.

Hachiko, a story of canine devotion from 1925 (1923 – 1935)

Hachiko, 7 Dogs That left their Paws on History

One day, when I will visit Japan, I will make sure to go to Shibuya train station where the statue of Hachiko is found. In Japanese culture Hachiko is a symbol of loyalty and love. This dog loved his master so much that his devotion entered people’s hearts and their memory and thus it remained in history. Books were written about him and movies were also made.

Adopted when he was just a puppy by Professor Hidesaburo Ueno, Hachiko was raised with a lot of love and attention. Since the Professor had to commute for work, Hachiko learned to wait daily for its owner’s return at Shibuya train station. The reunion of the two was the most awaited moment of the day. He did this for years until one day when Professor Ueno never returned from work. Hachiko’s owner passed away suddenly, while he was at the office, due to a cerebral hemorrhage. It was May 21, 1925. Hachiko waited until late that day, but his daddy never returned.

Yet Hachko never lost hope and for ten long years he went daily to Shibuya station to wait for his friend. Hachiko died of old age in 1935, on March 8.

What for a human being translates into basic human needs, food, comfort and love, for a dog is the definition of life itself. When men search companionship, understanding and friendship, dogs require only love.

Balto the Snowdog of 1925 (1919 – 1933)

Celebrated sled dog Balto with Gunnar Kaasen 7 Dogs That Put their Paws on History
Celebrated sled dog Balto with Gunnar Kaasen

How much do you love snow?

Balto was a Siberian husky dog trained to pull sleighs, named after the polar explorer Samuel Balto who participated in the first recorded crossing of the interior of Greenland, together with Nansen and four other expedition members.

But Balto the puppy grew into a strong and brave doggo soon known as the leader of the team that carried the diphtheria toxin in Nome, Alaska. During the winter of 1925 a small city with a big epidemic crisis was isolated due to weather conditions. The only solution to bring the antidote were dog dledding. Balto showed extraordinary courage and led the sledge to -23 ° C, at night, through the blizzard.

There is a statue in Balto’s memory in Central Park, New York. Have you seen it?

Just Nuisance, a WWII Royal Navy Able Seaman (1937 – 1944)

Just Nuisance, the hero in bestseller Joyful Trouble
Just Nuisance, the hero in my bestseller Joyful Trouble

The life and story of the legendary Great Dane, Able Seaman Just Nuisance, still captures the hearts and imagination of tourists, WWII historians and readers around the world.

Just Nuisance was born on1st April 1937 and he had a different name at the beginning, a more prosaic name. It is an extraordinary story how received the name everyone got to know him by, a story you can read in my Amazon bestseller book Joyful Trouble.

Well, I’ll share a bit. This giant Great Dane was very gentle and liked the sailors such a lot that he followed them everywhere….

‘“But mostly he liked to tail seamen, to follow them, while they were moving in and out of the naval base. Out we went, the Great Dane was after us. In the train we climbed, the dog would jump in. Even in the dockyards when we were doing our job, he was there.

He just liked to be among us, to sit among us, even lie among us and nap. Especially the ones working on the HMS Neptune,” smiled the old man.

“Was that your ship, Grandpa?”

“Yes, it was the ship I was first appointed to. She was a beautiful light cruiser! When seamen work on a ship it is always busy work, heavy work. And to get on and off the ship they lay a plank of wood a little bit wider than…. this,” and the old man kept his hands wide apart. But our Great Dane enjoyed being among the seamen so much that he thought the best place for him to sit and wait for his busy friends was the plank itself, the piece of wood connecting the ship with the shore. And you can’t blame him; that was the only area on which everyone walked; because there was no other way.

Now, that was a narrow plank and our dog was a big dog. Therefor not much space was left for the sailors to walk up and down on their duties. Every time a sailor would have to board or disembark the ship, sometimes even carrying heavy loads, he was forced to step over our four legged friend. And after a few jumps like this the seamen, no matter how fond they were of our dog, they would mumble and complain about how much trouble the dog was giving them.

And the name stuck!

Except that lots of joy was also associated with our Trouble causing friend.”

“Joyful Trouble,” said Ana to herself while watching Tommy throwing stones in the stream.’

from Joyful Trouble: Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy,by Patricia Furstenberg
Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy

Not many know, but Just Nuisance (Joyful Trouble) also flew in planes – in secret missions.

Just Nuisance is still a big part of Simon’s Town where a statue was raised in his honor. Simon’s Town Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, also has in it’s collection Just Nuisance’s collar as well as many photographs.

Fido, a Faithful, Trusting Dog of WWII, 1943 (1941 – 1958)

7 Dogs That Left their Paws on History

A story similar to Hachiko’s became famous in Italy during World War II. The story begins when an Italian worker, Soriani, finds an injured puppy, later named Fido. Good-hearted, the man took the pup home and took good care of him. Of course, the Italian worker and and his wife quickly became attached to the cute doggo and decided to adopt him. They called him Fido (trust, faithful), cared for him and gave him all their love. They all lived in the beautiful region of Tuscani.

And Fido returned their love tenfold. Each day Fido would follow his owner to the bus station and wait for him to return. Soriani worked in a factory but at some stage during World War II, when the city was bombed, the factory was completely destroyed. Many workers died, including Soriani. For 14 years after his master’s death, Fido returned to the bus station, waiting for his return every day. Much has been written in the press of the time about this proof of devotion.

Laika, the Spacedog (1954 – 1957)

Laika, 7 Dogs That Left their Paws on History

It was 1957 and the Golden Age of Capitalism, when freedom equaled consumption in the west. But the Sovie Union had other great plans. At the control desk the engineers started the countdown, and the Sputnik 2 space shuttle was ready for launch. A brave soul, with a wet nuzzle, will soon be propelled into outer space and the history of space flight.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the Russian scientists of the ’50s the way I never liked the Russian soldiers of WWII. Laika was a stray wandering the streets of Moscow. She was picked up and looked after – following a devious plan. Soviet scientists chose to use Moscow strays since they assumed that such animals had already learned to endure conditions of extreme cold and hunger.

During the training time, one of the scientists involved in the project took Laika home where the dog bonded with his children. In one of the books dedicated to the puppy, the scientist said that “Laika was silent and charming.” The puppy showed a lot of courage and extraordinary intelligence throughout the entire training period.

Laika died within hours from the launch due to overheating caused by a failure when the central missile separated from the payload. The true cause and time of her death were not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out on day six or, as the Soviet government initially claimed, she was euthanized prior to oxygen depletion. It was only in 2008 that Russia unveiled a statue dedicated to Laika.

Apollo, the brave Silent Hero K-9 Dog of 9/11 New York (1992 – 2006)

Apollo, the brave Silent Hero K-9 Dog of 9/11 New York (1992 - 2006)

The most recent story today is that of the German shepherd Appollo, a search and rescue dog who served with the K-9 unit of the New York Police Department.

Apollo and his handler, Peter Davis, were the first K-9 search and rescue team to answer the call on September 11, arriving at the South Tower 15 minutes after its collapse. Apollo Apollo looked for survivors 18 hours a day for weeks on end. It is estimated that more than 300 dogs took part in the search, rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attack and Apollo was one of them. Thanks to his acute senses he helped save the victims from the rubble, sneaking in hard-to-reach places on hearing the very faint cries for help or smelling humans.

Apollo was awarded the Dickin Medal, the animals’ equivalent of the Victoria Cross, in recognition of a work well done.

Dogs are our most capable and strong friends. Cared for and loved they become our most important allies. Until then, they offer us, unconditionally, their intelligence, affection and devotion. Precious gifts!

I don’t know about you, but I wholeheartedly agree with French writer Anatole France believed (and he was correct) that ‘Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.’

Update 🙂 because lovely Sheree commented on the old header photo: it depicts a Staff Sergeant of the Army Service Corps with the Corps pet dogs, Hissy and Jack. And we have Libby Hall, 73, press photographer and dog lover, to thank for it.

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What I Hope Readers Take from my Books

hope readers books Furstenberg

I write with the hope that readers, while looking for a captivating and interesting read, a way to unwind and pass the time, will also find a novel that addresses their mind and their humanity, a book that speaks to their heart.

I write for the joy of it, but also for bringing into the light less know contemporary and historical characters. I write in an attempt to connect past and present, the readers of my books with the lesser known, yet equally mystifying and significant, aspects of our history.

hope readers books Pat Furstenberg
What I hope readers will take from y books, by Patricia Furstenberg

We naturally seek the stories of those who lived before us, of those who went through incredible experiences, of those who loved and lost, who followed their dreams and paid dearly for it; people who have already been there, done that. It’s a natural human impulse. Go with it.

What I hope my readers will discover in my books

Realistic, relatable characters and that they will want to know what happens to them, rather than just following the plot.

Heartwarming relationships.

A setting that will transport them to another location, another lifestyle, another time, while still enjoying the safety of their reading space.

A complex story-line, involving historical events, accurately depicted and an addictive storytelling.

That tingling feeling that keeps you turning the pages.

An image, a feeling that will stay with them long after finished my book. Readers have appreciated in my writing the occasional passages they paused upon to enjoy especially for their lyrical descriptions.

A positive feeling, hope, a smile, as my writing has been described as uplifting and heart-warming, “making the world a beautiful place”- although my stories are honest.

An addictive reading, fueled by a passion for the topic and for storytelling.

Although reality can be uncomfortable in places, books can hold a mirror to real life. But life is also filled with joyful moments, with laughter and appreciation for our blessings. I hope readers will discover both in my books, as I write poetry, children’s stories, contemporary and historical fiction.

poetry books inspired by true historical events

Gifts all readers reap out of books

Reduced stress and depressive thoughts, while instilling a sense of tranquility.

An increased IQ, a wider vocabulary and an improved memory.

An increased EQ, making us more empathic.

Improved analytical thinking and a deeper knowledge of what we want.

Also, reading as a form of mental stimulation slows down dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

hope readers books Furstenberg
What I hope readers take from my books by Patricia Furstenberg

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Post WWII, The Christmas Song, Music Monday

Christmas song chestnuts roasing

Next to Bing Crosby’s renowned White Christmas, and Judy Garland’s Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Doris Day’s Christmas Song, Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is one of the popular songs that hit the radios post WW II.

What is amazing is that Doris had no idea just how musically gifted she was. While recovering from a car accident she would sing while listening to the radio: ‘the one radio voice I listened to above others belonged to Ella Fitzgerald. There was a quality to her voice that fascinated me, and I’d sing along with her, trying to catch the subtle ways she shaded her voice, the casual yet clean way she sang the words.’ (Doris Day)

christmas song Chestnuts roasting
Roasted chestnuts in a paper bag

Doris Day shared a long and fruitful collaboration with Les Brown & His Band of Renown. Here is their ageless collaboration, Christmas Song, Chestnuts roasting on an open fire:

Post WW2, The Christmas Song, Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Doris Day vocals with Les Brown and his orchestra – lyrics:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by the choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny little tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is going to spy
To see if reindeer’s really know how to fly
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you, Merry Christmas to you!

(Source Musixmatch)
Songwriters: ROBERT WELLS / MEL TORME
The Christmas Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Tunes LLC

christmas song Chestnuts roasting

Song lyrics and movie clip are property and copyright of their owners and are provided for educational purposes and personal use only.

The #MusicMonday meme was created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek. You can pick a song that you really like and share it on Monday. I thoroughly enjoyed this blog feature on Mischenko’s lovely blog, ReadRantRockandroll .

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A Resultant Force, Women Writing about War

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg - Women writing contemporary war books

As an author, I am the resultant force of the books I read, of the places I visit. As a woman, I am the resultant force of the women who influenced my life – my mother, my grandmothers, my daughter, my girl friends, my female role models. As a human being, I am one of the forces shaping my children’s future; albeit a tiny one, I can point forward and upwards.
Scientia potetia est.

It was an honor to have my article on Why We Need Contemporary War Fiction Written by Women published on Books By Women:

At some stage during my adult life, and this will astound my history teacher if she’d discover, I found myself fascinated by the thought of writing fiction inspired by contemporary events.

A thread that brought me here might have been reading Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” in my teens; another one, witnessing the terrorist attack on World Trade Center on Live TV while pregnant with my daughter. A definite thread, silky and alluring, came from enjoying historical fiction by Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon. While the most recent one, still carding itself, draws from my son’s keen interest in war computer games and my own, in military working dogs.

Contemporary war fiction penned by women pales in comparison to the amount of books written by men. Be it in poetry or prose, throughout the centuries an author, not an authoress, depicted more often the combat male protagonist. As Homer put it in his Iliad, “war will be men’s business”.

Why so, since countless notable women were not afraid of fighting battles? The Greek goddess Athena is shown as a warrior, the patron of justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, and arts. The Celtic goddess Brigid is the patron of poetry and smithcraft. Scathach is an Irish Goddess who taught the martial arts. The Amazons were fierce warrior women and there were even gladiator women, gladiatrices, although Juvenal, the Roman poet of those times, depicted them as a mere novelty. History is splattered with the blood of innumerable women warriors: Hatshepsut, Queen Boudicca, Queen Samsi of Arabia, the Trung Sisters from Vietnam, Empress Theodora of Byzantium, Olga of Russia, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mary I and Elizabeth I of England. 

History also showed us that women who took to war were willingly followed by an army of men and women and that they won their battles much to their opponent’s dismay. Is it the fact that women can stand up for themselves in times of political upheaval what worries men or the fact that women could, eventually, bulldoze them? 

With such role models, although nowadays women have changed spear for pen, where has history brought us?

Read my entire article here.

With thanks to Barbara Bos for so graciously facilitating the publishing of my piece.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for Patricia FurstenbergSilent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for is my latest book release, a thrilling read about military dogs, soldiers and the populace caught in the War in Afghanistan.

You can read the opening pages right here, on my website.

Read about the symbolism depicted in this novel.

Find out what the readers of Silent Heroes have to say.

Buy Silent Heroes from Amazon UK, Amazon US or use the international Amazon link here.

Silent Heroes is also available in LARGE PRINT.

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