|Reviews for A POW's Best Friend|
| shin obin chapter 28 . 6/17/2013
| Goldleaf83 chapter 28 . 5/31/2013
I read up through Chapter 11 as you were initially writing and posting this, but I’ve been away and missed the last 2/3 of the story. So I finally had a chance to sit down and read it all the way through as a single piece, and it’s a marvelous tale, beautifully structured as a whole, making wonderful use throughout of canonical bits of information as well as cleverly rewriting several actual episodes.
The structure of the story is terrific: the way it gradually gathers all the players, with a clearly delineated backstory for each, both canine and human, followed by showing the operation in action as you tell several episode stories from this new perspective. The Schnitzer family has a plausible background for their interest in and interaction with the dogs, as well as their dislike of the regime that has taken over their country and their resolution to do something about it. The backstories for the team at Stalag 13 work very well: the genesis of the Newkirk and LeBeau relationship is particularly well done in its historical background, showing Newkirk in the rearguard at Dunkirk and LeBeau with the Free French. Newkirk’s desperation to know what’s happening to Britain is poignant, and I really like how you show the soldierly and ruthless side of LeBeau while still believably depicting his generosity toward and caring for Newkirk. (That bar of soap is a great touch!) Their eventual decision to sacrifice their dreams for Hogan is incredibly touching, and yet completely in character: we can see that they have their eyes on the big picture, not just their own fates. That’s true for the other men in Barracks 2; the scene where they spill the beans to Hogan is terrific in how it shows their initiative and teamwork.
The explanation for Kinch is both hilarious (mysterious 504th Bomb Squad indeed!) and as good an explanation as any other I’ve seen for canon that so clearly violates historical fact. Making him the barracks chief is a good idea. Olsen is a wonderful character, his background borrowed from other stories you’ve written, I know, but it seems fresh here as a good explanation for the background of the outfit’s outside man! The way he cares for the Schnitzers and their dogs is sweet. His interactions with Hogan set up an interesting dynamic, and this gives Hogan the support of another officer, even if that officer is undercover. The code word that enables them to trust each other is another great touch. And oh, the humiliation of how Olsen has to surrender to take his assignment at Stalag 13!
Hogan is wonderfully done: you’ve developed a good background story on him, and I thought it interesting that he comes rather late to flying. That’d make sense: his career would be conventionally Army, but he could well see that aircraft would be critical in the coming war and move to take advantage of that. You provide a nice explanation for why Hogan is sent to Stalag 13. His determination to follow Plan B, his slowly developing reluctance to give it up once he gets to Stalag 13 and the inner conflict reflected in that shift, and the way he finally arrives at the decision are all perfectly depicted. I really liked the way he comes to it because he can’t get Gibbs’s motto out of his head (and I caught that TV reference too!), and by going through all the advantages that are lying right in front of him, just waiting to be used. You also catch Hogan’s attitude, voice, and demeanor well, in the dialogue in the Dulag Luft and early Stalag 13 scenes. Even from the outside, your characterization of Hogan works in how others see him or interact with him: the way you use Kinch as the means of analyzing the moment of decision in Hogan’s body language stands out in particular. (Having Hogan know several of the barracks men, though not well, is a good choice too: they can vouch for him, but he’s not bound to them yet by the loyalty that will grow, and that gives you a chance to show it developing.) Uncle Harold is a great source for Hogan’s abilities and how he’s learned to use them too: what a neat idea! Butler’s sense of Hogan’s possibilities and his gruff affection for him are also wonderful moments.
Even the minor characters are well done: the assessments of Klink (both Schnitzer’s and Hogan’s) are absolutely in keeping with the series depiction and provide a good rationale for why he acts as he does. Klink’s character is especially nicely underscored in Hogan’s analysis of Klink’s style of playing chess in Chapter 14. You even come up with a nice explanation for why Burkhalter isn’t in a Luftwaffe uniform but has Klink under his command. The scene between him and Schnitzer near the beginning is nicely done.
I haven’t mentioned Carter yet, partly because there’s a different issue with him: his character’s appearance is a great rewrite of your earlier Carter stories, and the way you integrate it in this one is just seamless. You also do that with a number of your other HHs stories: Olsen and the Schnitzers are congruent with their depiction in “The Return of the Informer” (and Wagner can fit from that too). I also caught the brief connection near the end with Cohen from “The Unsung Hero.” You’re also very apt in incorporating small details from various series episodes, such as the mission orders from “The Collector General,” Hogan’s connection with Gen. Butler from “Two Nazis for the Price of One,” the kinds of men that become guards at Stalag 13 (from “Clearance Sale at the Black Market” and “No Names Please.” (And hey, is that Berlin agent in Chapter 8 supposed to be Teppel from “A Bad Day in Berlin”?) I also really like the way that you work in what’s happening in the war as the story progresses, often at the beginnings of chapters, but with other references sprinkled in as appropriate, and the sly references to that other (real!) Stalag XIII. And even folklore: when I saw Chapter 27 if the dogs would talk at midnight! You really do a magnificent job in weaving together historical fact, series canon, your own stories, and all the threads of this story into a single fabric. I was pretty sure you’d bring in Wolfgang’s original owner by the end, since all the other threads are tied up so nicely, and you didn’t disappoint: a satisfying tying-up at the end that brings the story full circle.
And that, of course, brings up what I haven’t mentioned: the dogs! You create an excellent cast, well differentiated, and that fit the dogs as we see them in the series relating to the characters. I chuckled as I recognized moments from the series, such as Fritzi’s ability to climb the ladder (a circus dog, of course!), the dogs running loose outside the compound, and the way they “capture” Carter and threaten Klink and Burkhalter in the pilot. A lot of the humor comes from the dogs’ ways of thinking: seeing the humans as being on leash, their frustration with dim humans who are hard to train and don’t see what’s obvious to dogs, their ability to tell good guys from bad guys by their smell, their belief the prisoners need an alpha male and identification of Hogan as such, the consistent point that dogs are superior to humans. (And their pity for Hogan’s inability to think like them!) They make a good case for it every time, especially in the comedy of errors when none of the humans can figure out who they can trust, though the dogs know, of course! Watching the prisoners gradually figure out the dogs’ abilities and roles is just a delight, first LeBeau, then Newkirk, and especially Hogan’s conversation with them once he figures them out. It’s lovely to see him move from mistrust (based on the dogs at the Dulag Luft) to his slow realization that these dogs are not only not threats, they’re on his side, and that they provide an excellent cover for why the camp has no escapes. The dogs are also deliciously doggy in the way they offer their paws to shake, cuddle next to the injured LeBeau, play with each other, etc.
And finally, I want to praise all the little touches that make this piece sing: the incorporation of the Twilight Barking from Dodie Smith’s original novel of One Hundred and One Dalmations, the heart-breaking farewell between Bismark and the Baroness, Minsk from Minsk, LeBeau’s epiphany that Kinch is helping though aware he cannot escape himself, the guys who can’t remember who’s won the World Series, Hogan’s inability to decide if he’s landed in Wonderland or Oz, Gerhardt’s certainty that Carter is special, Bismark’s mistake with Hogan (and a snerk for the pun there!), and the consultation of Zeitschrift der Medizin Wikipädie, and a happy ending for all – all of them piquant choices that flavor the story uniquely. You’ve made a fine job of this story from a perspective I would never have thought of that enriches my sense of HH, and I’ll never again see the dogs in the series without thinking of your version of them!
| Hummingbird2 chapter 28 . 2/23/2013
A fantastic story, lots of fun, and I really enjoyed that little nod to 'The Unsung Hero' at the end. Thank you!
| Sophie chapter 28 . 2/13/2013
A great story! It had me chuckling all the way through. Telling the story through the dogs was especially nice. Thanks for writing it.
| VJ Riddle chapter 28 . 2/11/2013
Oh this was so amazingly awesome! Go Wolfgang! Loved it!
| Abracadebra chapter 28 . 1/27/2013
This was a wonderful, one-of-a-kind story. Brava!
| Hildegaarde chapter 28 . 1/4/2013
What a wonderfully sweet ending! It's so nice to see Wolfgang reunited with his family, and Hogan's salute to Wolfgang recognizing his efforts during the war was very touching.
Like many others, I'm sorry to see this story end, and I hope that the dogs will feature in coming stories.
| CHF chapter 28 . 1/4/2013
Oh, what a wonderful ending! I'm so happy for Wolfgang and Tommy. You did a wonderful job with this story. My hat's off to you.
| Belphegor chapter 28 . 1/2/2013
I had read this chapter in bed a couple of days ago (e-book readers are marvellous things for fanfiction, although I still very much prefer my books with paper), and just re-read it now, and it brought a much-needed cheer. I'm sad to see this story end, but what a perfect ending! So Wolfgang is Erich after all :o) Wonderful and heart-warming. I loved it.
I also loved the real-life historical details you worked in here, like Hogan's mention of General Marshall, and the hardships that lasted in Germany till fairly long after the war ended. But really, I love that last scene. After six years of good and loyal service, goodness knows Wolfgang needed some unconditional love and happiness :o]
Thank you for this story!
| konarciq chapter 28 . 12/31/2012
I, too, suspected something already - something stirred in my mind about having read something here about the family thad had been taken by the Gestapo and that had to leave their dog behind. An earlier chapter, I suppose?
So it was no real surprise how it came out, but boy, did I practically start to cry... Like I said in Limmet's review, the love of a pet is *so* unconditional and timeless... there is just nothing like it. We humans could really learn a lot from them.
| newkathy97 chapter 28 . 12/30/2012
Ooooooooooh! Wolfgang's family's okay! And the rest of the dogs have found places too.
This was a marvellous fic. It had the right mix of excitement, humour, and general heartwarmingness (I need a better word for this warm-and-fuzzy feeling!) The dogs were wonderful characters, well constructed and developed.
Thanks for a wonderful read!
| newkathy97 chapter 27 . 12/30/2012
Oh I hope they can take the dogs home with them! That would be wonderful.
Nice chapter. I loved all the little Christmas references at the beginning.
And Bruno talked!
| dust on the wind chapter 28 . 12/30/2012
Well, I'm sorry to see this story end; I wanted to know so much more about the dogs' part in the Stalag 13 operation throughout the war. But this is such a heartwarming ending, and so hopeful in spite of the genuine hardship that lies ahead.
A beautiful and unique piece of work. Well done.
| Sgt. Hakeswill chapter 28 . 12/30/2012
A satisfying ending to a wonderful story. It brought a tear to my eye to see the reunion between Tom and his beloved dog.
| rutika78 chapter 28 . 12/30/2012
Please bring the dogs back!