During the WWII twenty million people were killed in Russia. Hitler’s order in dealing with the Russians was: “Scruples of any sort are a crime against the German people.” Both the human and animal populations suffered starvation, and death. Is it any wonder the Soviets had such hatred for the invading Germans and all things German? Could a German shepherd expect mercy when it was the favored dog of the Nazis throughout the war, when even Hitler himself had chosen one as a pet? Not likely. (Photo Credit: skeeze/Pixabay)
The Russians trained fifty thousand dogs for military service. Some were the “suicide dogs” that blew up German tanks at the price of their own lives. Other dogs sniffed out the wounded and dragged them to safety: some wore medical packs on their backs and helped injured men when no one else could get through. Sled teams pulled large guns into position without a sound. They sniffed out land mines, delivered food and ammunition, and saved thousands of lives.
By the end of the war there were almost no dogs left in the Russia. Imagine a world without pets, guard dogs, herding dogs, hunting dogs. Only the Russian government had the resources to tackle the problem. It took seven years to develop a new breed of dog, one fit for working and military purposes, and family use – the Black Russian Terrier. Ironically, two of the dog breeds that contributed most to the new Russian dog, were German dogs: the Rottweiler and the giant schnauzer.
A Dog Book Author
Randi Barrow was an adoption attorney for 20 years before she became a writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband musician/composer Arthur Barrow, and their handsome Chihuahua, Manuel. Randi’s first two books were historical fiction for middle grade kids. She has expanded into adult fiction with Chasing the Beatles, and then she has written two wonderful books about a Russian dog Zasha.
Book One: Saving Zasha
In post-WWII Russia, one boy dares to save an entire race of outlawed dogs -- the German shepherd! World War II has just ended when thirteen-year-old Mikhail finds a dying man and his German shepherd, Zasha, in the woods. It's dangerous -- some say traitorous -- to own a German dog after Germany attacked Russia, so Mikhail must keep Zasha a secret to keep her alive. But Mikhail's rival, Katia, is determined to find the dog she is sure he's hiding. At the same time, a soldier named Dimitri is breeding a new Russian dog at a nearby farm. So many dogs were lost in combat, to starvation, and in the slaughter of German dogs that the country is in dire need of every kind of dog. Dimitri, too, has suspicions of Zasha's existance, and would like nothing more than to add her to his breeding program. He'll have to compete with the armed dog thieves who are also on her trail. Mikhail's inspiring journey to save his best friend, the last German shepherd in Russia, forces him to face some of life's hardest lessons about war, hate, forgiveness, hope, love, and man's best friend. (BUY ON AMAZON)
Book Two: Finding Zasha
Finding Zasha is a prequel to the first book - another gripping heroic World War II story about a boy and his best friend, a German shepherd!
In 1941, the Germans began the long, bloody siege on Leningrad. During the chaos, twelve-year-old Ivan is sent to live with relatives when his mother's job is moved to the mountains. But it is a long and dangerous journey to get out of Leningrad. After settling into a new town it falls under Nazi occupation and Ivan is picked by Axel Recht, an especially heinous soldier, to come work for the Nazis. One of Ivan's more pleasant tasks is to train Alex's dogs. Yet Ivan is determined to use his position to undermine the Nazis and rescue the dogs. But Ivan underestimates Axel's attachment to Zasha and Thor, and soon finds himself being hunted by a ruthless soldier who will stop at nothing to get his dogs back. As World War II rages around them, Ivan must find a way to hide from Axel, protect Zasha and Thor, avoid the constant barrage of deadly bombings, and survive in the devastating conditions of a city cut off from the world. (BUY ON AMAZON)
Randi’s readers love both these books. “This is an amazing book (a must read), - says one of them, N. Lamb. - Yes, it was given to us for my boys to read (ages 9 and 14) -- but I read and loved it too ... as much as they did. I'm a middle-aged professional/parent. So I'd say this book is great for all ages (over 8 yrs. age, or 10 and up if reading it without a parent.)