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Documentary Explores The Bond Between Military Dogs And Their Handlers

A dog is more than a man’s best friend on the battlefield.

Nancy Schiesari, a radio-television-film professor at The University of Texas at Austin, is working on Canine Soldiers, a documentary that investigates the relationship between American soldiers and their canine partners.

KUT’s Laura Rice talked with Schiesari about exploring the bond between handlers and their canine companions and why Schiesari chose to make the documentary in 3D.

On a Dog's Role in the Military:

“In over ten years, two out of three American soldiers have been killed or maimed by improvised explosive devices. The best deterrent against those bombs is a dog’s nose so dogs are leading human troops through very dangerous environments leading us as a pack. You realize the dogs and their handlers are there to save lives.”

On the Relationship Between a Soldier and Canine:

“It is only the handler and the dog that deploy together so in a sense they are a unit. They are a team so the dog handler really has to form a strong relationship with that dog to build the trust that is necessary to be a successful team. It is a really unique relationship because, if you think about it, it’s based off love and trust and this kind of co-dependency. It is happening in the middle of a war zone where everyone else is in a fight or flight mentality where it is a kill or be killed. The dog handler has to maintain this loving relationship of giving the dog what he needs.”

On Shooting the Documentary in 3D:

“It is an opportunity to perhaps to shake up the visual imagery of war that we are used to the flat, two-dimensional, khaki-colored, sand-colored and introduce some movement through space that maybe replicates in a sense the movement of a dog through that world. Also, it heightens the experience.”

On Funding the Documentary:

"We've been very fortunate to have assistance from the City of Austin, the Austin Film Society, Humanities Texas, but we really need a few donations to make it work. We are kind of at the end of a cycle and we have completed half an hour of the film and it needs to be an hour at least. We're at a point we could use some help. Through Women & Their Work – they are our non-profit, fiscal sponsor."

A portion of the documentary will be shown tonight (September 4) during an event starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Carver Branch of the Austin Public Library (1161 Angelina Street). After the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring Schiesari, veterans and military dog handlers.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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