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  • Writer's pictureDavyd Smith

No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII

I read a lot of books and was drawn to this one because of the title. I not only loved the book. It reminded me that the principles of the No Kill movement are all around us and have been for a very long time, whether we realize it or not.

No Better Friend is primarily about a dog named Judy, a Pointer that joined the British Royal Navy as a puppy on a river boat on the Yangtze. Her first encounter with Japanese soldiers occurred right before her adoption. And it was abusive. Her story with this enemy was far from over. She then led a life in the Pacific war theater, saw combat, surrender, and became a “prisoner” in internment camps for the remainder of the war after that. Judy became the first official canine prisoner of war in an unusual deal struck by her human best friend.

In that story alone, this book presents an intense narrative about the tenacity and adaptability of dogs. This story shows the bond, and what it can mean, in the best and worst circumstances imaginable.

But there is another factor that was an “aha!” moment as I read this story of people and this dog living in horrifying conditions with the specter of death over them daily from their captors, disease, wild animals, starvation, and any number of threats they had to face.

The will to live - regardless of the circumstances - is something all creatures on this planet share. And it is the basis of the No Kill Movement. No sane person would request to be killed if they are healthy or treatable and there is hope for a better life.

For years, Judy and her friends lived in a world that did not value their lives. In spite of the immeasurable suffering they experienced, they did not succumb to the thought of wishing for death. Even when her human companions gave passing thought to death, Judy was the inspiration to keep living. Dog and man resisted, and persisted, until those lucky enough to have endured were liberated and saved by allies at the end of the war.

Judy’s love for the men she was interned with was matched equally by the men who kept her safe throughout years of imprisonment. And the will to live was remarkable under the circumstances.

This is why I see the parallels with the No Kill Movement and how so very many animal shelters function. There is an excuse that abounds in regressive shelters that “there are fates worse than death” to justify the killing of healthy and treatable homeless pets. There may be some fates worse than death, but it is not equal to the staggering numbers we see in our animal shelters today. And if a shelter lives up to its name: a safe-haven, a temporary place giving protection from danger. No animal in a shelter should suffer in any comparative way that Judy and her fellow human inmates suffered. And they did not desire to be killed.

So why do regressive shelter managers make believe killing is a “kindness” when it is simply their own convenience of not keeping a pet healthy and available until a loving home can be found? We are seeing a lot of talk against No Kill philosophies because animals allegedly “suffer” from being kept alive until they find a home. How bad are these shelters that animals are suffering and need to be killed?

I highly recommend this book. Even if you read it primarily to learn about Judy’s remarkable journey, you will also learn a wealth of information about the WWII Japanese Pacific internment camps. You will learn about this period in a time in WWII that receives less focus on what was happening in Europe. You will read a story of human and canine adaptability, love, companionship, and tenacity.

I hope you read it. And I hope you see the connection it has to the focus of the No Kill Movement: to save the life of every healthy and treatable homeless pet for surely this is the choice those animals would make for themselves given the opportunity.


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