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From Baghdad to America
by Jay Kopelman

c.2008, Skyhorse Publishing
$23.95 / $24.95 Canada
196 pages, includes appendices and resources

From Baghdad to America

Much has been written lately about the horrors of puppy mills.  Dog lovers would agree: go to the pound, the shelter, the Humane Society, SPCA or wherever there are dogs that need homes.  Same with cats; they need families, too. 

There’s something really great about rescuing an animal that needs a home. You get a companion, best friend, protector, playmate, and grateful mealtime companion.
And your rescued pet might even rescue you.

In the new book “From Baghdad to America” by Jay Kopelman, you’ll read about the California life of a most unusual Iraqi orphan and the man who was lucky enough to adopt him.

When last we saw him (in “From Baghdad, With Love”), Lava the dog was finally safe in America after having been rescued by Kopelman and his Marines in Iraq.  The puppy had become a mascot and a symbol of home. When the Marines expressed concern about what would happen to Lava if they were deployed elsewhere, Kopelman promised them he’d get the dog to the States.

And that’s what he did. But once Kopelman and Lava were in Southern California, life was not all sunshine and chewy-bones.

Lava seemed to have a doggy version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He “went ballistic” when delivery trucks rumbled past. He was aggressive toward other dogs. He was shaking-fearful of the ocean. He bit friends, “guarded” his turf, and snarled at family members.

Kopelman’s buddies grew fearful of the dog. Although he was usually exuberant and loving, Lava’s personality could change in an instant. 
A trait that Kopelman saw in himself.

Overjoyed with a new wife, stepson, and a baby, Kopelman knew he was prone to over-react. He often felt that he was letting his family down.  But while he admitted in his first book that he cried now and then, real men – particularly Marines – don’t seek therapy, do they?  Real men take care of themselves and their families without medical intervention, right?
In Kopelman’s case, asking for help was difficult but through it all, his savior and teacher came on four legs, packed in fur.

From the cover of this book, you’d expect a sequel to author Jay Kopelman’s first book, wouldn’t you?

Not quite.

Yes, “From Baghdad to America” is about the love a man has for his dog. More though, it’s an almost-200-page venting.

At first and understandably, Kopelman pokes gently at the military and the Department of Defense. As you read further, his increasing anger almost leaps off the page. He tells brutal, raw stories of war and death, and tales of terror and terrorism.  He sneeringly chides civilians for perceived laziness and cowardice and for asking the inevitable questions of a warrior. He seems almost proud that his dog was aggressive and unpredictable, which took the joy right out of this book.

I think deployed soldiers, their families, and Veterans might better understand this book; indeed, between chapters are letters to Kopelman from Veterans. Animal lovers, though, will probably think “From Baghdad to America” is a book worth shedding.


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