Several months ago we interviewed dog trainer Jeff Franklin. Here we review a book about his life and work as part of our Dog-Eared Reads series.
Franklin: The Man Behind the United States Commando Dogs provides an interesting look at the training of elite police dogs and military working dogs.
Written by Franklin’s friend, fellow dog trainer and mentor Matthew Duffy, it’s not so much a biography as it is a work of creative nonfiction, as many details, including names, dates and locations, were altered for national security reasons.
The first four chapters follow Jeff Franklin’s adventures in South America shortly after forming his own canine security/training company, Cobra Canine, while delivering a batch of military working dogs (mostly German Shepherds). They are quickly put into action as part of a rescue mission to retrieve the kidnapped daughter of an Ecuadorian politician.
Chapter five details Jeff’s background growing up in Kentucky in the 1980s playing baseball and training his German Shepherd Lady. A torn ACL dashed his hopes of a college baseball scholarship, so he enlisted in the Marines instead, and Lady was hit by a car shortly after basic training.
Chapter six deals with his experiences during Desert Storm, and when he returns, then Jeff meets and starts working with Duffy as a dog trainer. Shortly after that, Franklin acquired Cobra the German Shepherd, and they became a K9 unit in a small town’s police department. That covers chapters seven through nine.
Chapter ten covers how Jeff, now working at an elite training facility, was recruited to develop high-caliber military working dogs for the US military.
Chapters 11 and 12 cover Duffy’s experiences visiting a Special Forces training compound.
The final several chapters sketch out profiles of Europe’s top canine scouts and retells the wartime experiences of several dog-handler teams in the Middle East during the War on Terror. who had gone through Franklin’s training.
Matthew Duffy knows dogs really well, and can explain the bond between canine and human very well. And he’s probably a great storyteller in person. But in print, that quality is nowhere to be found.
The pacing and structure of sentences and chapters is uneven and choppy, the information at times redundant and irrelevant. I wore out an entire new pen copyediting the grammatical and punctuation errors in the first four chapters alone – after that I gave up. But there is a great story in there somewhere, and that does a lot to make up for the work’s faults, though it doesn’t eliminate them.
Being largely unfamiliar with military jargon and expecting something more along the lines of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, I found this work disappointing as a whole, though the training segments were informative.
An outside perspective and much cleaner and tighter editing would help quite a bit.
This book is worth reading if you enjoy military histories or are curious about what goes into training police dogs and military dogs.
Franklin is available to purchase on Amazon in both print and Kindle editions if you’d like to read it yourself.