Canine Soldiers: the Militarization of Love is a feature length documentary film produced and directed by Nancy Schiesari that explores the intimate bond between Military Working Dogs and their handlers—combat soldiers who make life-and-death decisions based on the instincts and behavior of the dogs who lead their patrols. In wars where the rules of engagement have shifted from traditional combat to the unforeseen and the invisible, these highly trained dogs are saving soldiers’ lives and giving them comfort, hope and protection.
Military working dog teams have become the most effective agents in detecting explosives and chemical weapons at home and abroad. Their mission is to save lives, not kill. From rigorous training to deployment, we follow our soldier handlers to learn what it takes to become a successful MWD team. We explain how the dogs are bred, how their relationships with their handlers develop, and what it’s like for our handler teams to live in interdependence on the war front. Deployed soldiers eat, sleep, shower and patrol with their dog by their side. This special bond is critical in forming a relationship of trust where each understands and reads each other’s cues. One trainer remarked, “These soldiers don’t have battle buddies to the right and left of them like a regular line soldier. Their only battle buddy really is that dog. They literally place their lives in the nose of that dog.”
Canine Soldiers is the first war documentary told from the point of view of a soldier/dog team, molding together their poignant stories with reflections from notable animal scholars who think outside the box about the significance of co-species evolution. Relying on dogs to keep us safe in war is only the continuation of a long history of co-evolution with canines. Even in this age of advanced technology, we are again relying on a “primitive” animal’s superior sense of smell to survive.
Does being dependent on another species to keep us safe during war open our hearts to new truths about ourselves, our connection to nature and ultimately to what it means to be human? The film also raises the ethical question: Is coopting a sentient being in conflicts that involve violence ever justifiable?