NO BETTER FRIEND
One Man, One Dog, and Their Incredible Story of Courage and Survival in WWII
NO BETTER FRIEND tells the unbelievable but true story of the relationship between a dog and a soldier, formed in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. She was the only dog to be granted POW status during the war, in any theater. They saved one another's lives on countless occasions and the dog's uncanny ability to escape the wrath of the camp guards gave the other prisoners a reason to think they could survive too. With the war's end they return to a heroes welcome in England.
And the events that led her to WIlliams are nearly as astounding as the story of their relationship in a brutal camp conditions. The camp environment allowed them to perfect a series of calls and signals which would prove invaluable in Judy evading detection during transport. And Williams risked his life to appeal to the camp commander to make Judy an official POW (the one and only canine POW in WWII), a bold gambit which confounded later commanders and saved her life.
Their relationship deepened as their hardships worsened. Forced to lay tracks for a railway through the jungle the prisoners suffered severe beatings which Judy would interrupt with ferocious barking before dashing back into the jungle. Every time Judy disappeared or they were separated Frank never knew if she had finally dodged her last bullet. But she always returned to find him and, indeed, the dog became a beacon for the other prisoners who saw in her survival a flicker of hope for their own. If Judy can do it, we can do it too, they said. Judy's ferocious barking from the middle of the camp roused the prisoners one morning. The Japanese were gone. They had survived and help was on the way.
Judy and Frank returned to England to a heroes welcome. She was awarded the Dicken Medal, the animal version of the Victoria Cross, the highest honor in the realm. She and Frank began a goodwill tour of injured soldiers to lift their spirits as they recovered physically and emotionally. They moved to Africa where Frank began work on an agricultural program and where, ultimately, Judy would die, seven years after they'd met. Judy was buried in her RAF jacket and a devastated Frank gathered marble to create a monument for her. He would never own another dog for the rest of his life.
Robert Weintraub is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Slate, The Guardian, Deadspin, and many more. He is the author of THE VICTORY SEASON (Little, Brown, 2013) and THE HOUSE THAT RUTH BUILT (Little, Brown, 2011). Weintraub has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Sydney and lives now in Decatur, Georgia.