Select one of the keywords
From Baghdad to America: Life Lessons from a Dog Named Lava    by Jay Kopelman order for
From Baghdad to America
by Jay Kopelman
Order:  USA  Can
Skyhorse, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Kopelman's earlier book From Baghdad, With Love tells the story of his rescue of a doggy waif from war-torn Iraq. In From Baghdad to America, he speaks honestly of that dog's acclimatization to security in a comfortable home. Trivial? Not at all: Lava's adjustment to life in a pleasant San Diego suburb parallels Kopelman's own readjustment to a world vastly different from the hellish killing fields he himself experienced.

Lava shows that dogs also can experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The author loves Lava for himself as well as for what he represents, a symbol that there is life, hope, and love still in a world gone mad. He is sensitive to Lava's reactions, recognizing the stress and stressors that make the dog react so inappropriately in safe situations. Again, Lava is the pointer to problems the author is experiencing in his return to civilian life in the States. As a tough and battle-tested Marine, Kopelman's honesty about his own situation may well be one of the hardest challenges he has faced.

Like the Viet Nam vets, those returning from Iraq are manifesting difficulties in readjusting to peacetime life. As this is more widely recognized, government authorities are beginning to address the problem, which has implications not only for the individual sufferer but for all of society. If a mere dog can help point the way to a solution, as well as provide comfort for his human, then surely he is worth his weight in diamonds. (Any pet-lover will assert the same!)

Kopelman is brutally honest about his shortcomings, some aggravated by the stresses of service in Iraq. (Warning here: coarse language.) He spends some time defending his decision to save 'a mere dog' and bring him home. It is a decision many of us feel needs no defence, and the narratives and photos from other soldiers are poignant affirmations of that. After all, does love for a fellow creature, human or otherwise, mean there is less love remaining for others?

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews