Interview with K9 Heroes author Nicole Arbelo
K9 Heroes. What a perfect title for a novel about today’s military working dog community. But don’t worry—this book isn’t just about the dogs. Debut author Nicole Arbelo showcases the deep bond between military working dogs and their handlers in this heartfelt and powerful book.
Nicole spent nearly three years working tirelessly on her first book, K9 Heroes. Her admiration for the dogs and the service members they partner with radiates throughout the book.
The book is mainly a compilation of stories (mostly firsthand accounts); direct correspondence with actual dog handlers, their family and friends; and interviews conducted by Nicole. As I read the book I honestly felt like I was talking to the service members. As you all know, I am an active duty soldier, so it was very relaxing for me to read K9 Heroes. The accounts are honest, uncensored, and amazing. I felt like I was having discussions directly with the service members.
I made a huge mistake when I purchased this book though. I ordered the paperback version. I received a book full of lesser quality black and white pictures. From what I’ve read from others and can tell myself from looking through the book, I missed out on one of the best parts of the hardcover book. There are over a 100 pictures throughout the book. Don’t be thrifty like me. I urge everyone to order the hardcover version so you can experience the higher quality pictures.
What inspired you to want to write a book about military working dog teams?
Since the War started, I wanted to do something on my part to help our deployed heroes. I began sending care packages via Soldiers Angels and AnySoldier.com It was there on AnySoldier.com, that I discovered the first K9 handler killed in action, Sgt. Adam Cann. I saw that he was from Davie, Florida, which is where I moved from fifteen years ago. I became so interested in learning about his story: there were so many conflicting reports on the internet, especially about his MWD Bruno and whether or not he was alive or he was KIA as well. It was then that I was looking specifically on AnySoldier to adopt a K9 unit, and I saw this message posted by Justin Granado, a Marine K9 handler out of Camp Pendleton.
He wrote something like I am a Marine K9 handler out of Camp Pendleton here with my MWD Bruno. My mouth dropped open! There are hundreds if not a thousand or more people signed up on this site, and I thought, “Could this be the same Bruno?”
I sent a care package to Justin right away and lots of goodies for the MWDS as well and asked if this was the same Bruno that was with Sgt. Cann. Within less than two weeks, I received an email from Justin stating it was and he couldn’t believe I put that together. From there on in, Justin and I became close; we chatted online almost everyday throughout his deployment, and one day I said in an email, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book, and I should write a book about what you do.” He responded, “Yes, you should, you really should!”
It also turns out that I have friends in Florida that are friends with the Cann family as well. It’s a very small world that brought us together!
This is your first book. What part of the writing process did you find to be the hardest? How about the easiest? The funniest?
It is, and since high school, writing was something I loved! Oh, wow, most definitely the hardest part was the emotional aspect. There is so much more that I learned way beyond the book, and I would often hang up with a father or a brother after our interview and cry my eyes out. Sometimes I would wait up to a year to conduct an interview with someone; I always made sure that when they were ready before we would proceed.
The easiest part was putting my thoughts into typing. I was so inspired by the stories and the handlers, and I really enjoyed talking to handlers that were in Italy. I received calls from Afghanistan. It was amazing!
The funniest was hearing the stories even beyond our interviews that we couldn’t put into the book—just funny things that happened behind the scenes that really made me laugh and that made me feel good because there were a lot of tears.
In your book you describe a childhood memory of how your German shepherd saved you from a rattle snake. Can you tell us what happened?
I was so young, around nine, and my mother had recently married. My stepfather at the time had a beautiful German shepherd named Princess. We lived in Delray Beach, Florida, literally out in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Rattle snakes were a very big issue. One day, I was walking outside and literally came face to face with what I would say to this day was the biggest rattle snake I have ever seen! I wasn’t even aware where Princess was. All I remember is this constant rattling and this snake coiling back and I swear before I knew it Princess came out of nowhere and went right at the snake, taking an instant bite. Princess, thank goodness, made it, and she saved me no doubt. We lived quite far from the nearest hospital.
Your book is wonderfully jam-packed with firsthand accounts from dog handlers. This is something I have never seen before. When you initially set out to write the book was this your goal. If so, why? If not, how did it end up like this.
It was definitely my goal immediately to write this book of first accounts this way. I remember so many days talking to author and Vietnam dog handler John Burnam, who said, “This is the most challenging type of book to write and will take the longest.” He was a great mentor to me! He loved the idea that I was writing it this way as well. It was important for me to share the stories firsthand. I wanted to get all sides of the K9 handlers, from all the Military branches.
Do you plan to write additional books or is this it for you?
I would love to! The way I did this first book was very costly, but, yes, I have so many more stories to tell. I have a lot of ideas as well, so I hope one day this can happen.
What type of books do you like to read?
Well,l to be honest back in November of 2010, I wasn’t working and went through months and months of doctor appointments, specialists, etc., to finally get diagnosed with, “Basilar Migraine Vertigo,” which is very hereditary within my family, so I really can’t read very much at any given time. I think I will start listening to books on audio.
Do you have any dogs now?
I do, I have two very sweet and wild and crazy Yorkies, Mozart and Zoe. I became very allergic to dogs that shed, so there went my dream of having a German shepherd. Of course, I always joke that I could just wear a gas mask around the house. I never knew what it was to have chronic pain, and I can say that having my dogs make everyday life more bearable. Whether it be a Military Working Dog, a guide dog, a Police K9, a house pet, I believe all dogs are heroes to someone!
Nicole is also working diligently to outfit law enforcement K9 with armor vests. She is an incredible person and her book is a must read for all dog and service member fans. Remember though—order the hardcover of her wonderful book K9 Heroes. You’ll be glad you did!
This is a wonderful post by Nicole on SGT Adam Cann who is featured on the cover and inside K9 Heroes.
Thank you, Nicole, for what you have done and continue to do for our K9 Heroes!
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