For Veterans Day, I’d like to tell you the story of the most decorated pooch in U.S. military history. His name was “Sergeant” Stubby.
Way back in 1917, Stubby was a stray dog, wandering around a Yale field where soldiers were being trained for World War I combat. He started hanging out with the guys and was rescued by a soldier named John Robert Conroy.
When Cpl. Conroy found out that his unit was going to France, he couldn’t stand the thought of leaving his buddy Stubby behind, so he wrapped the pooch up in an overcoat and smuggled him aboard his ship. (Back then, the military didn’t enlist dogs, and besides, Stubby didn’t have any training at all.)
In France, Stubby became the “unofficial official mascot” of the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division. When the soldiers went into battle in early 1918, they were super grateful to have the pooch around. Stubby was hit in the leg by a grenade, but did that stop the brave l’il guy? No way! As he got better himself, Stubby kept the other hurt soldiers company and made them feel better, too.
As soon as Stubby had healed, he went right back into the trenches. One time he was gassed, but he used this awful experience – and his super sense of smell – to warn the soldiers of poison gas attacks, saving lots of lives. He also used the pawsome sense of hearing we pooches have to warn the troops of artillery shells headed their way – he could hear the whine before the humans could, so he barked to let the soldiers know they’d better duck and cover.
And that’s not all! Because Stubby was a dog and not a man, he could scooch under barbed wire in “no man’s lands” to get to wounded soldiers. He also single-pawedly captured a German spy! There’s a legend – and I totally believe it – that he even saved a little girl from getting hit by a car in Paris.
At the end of World War I, Cpl. Conroy smuggled Stubby back to the United States. Back at home, the pooch was treated like a rock star, meeting presidents and leading parades. He became an honorary lifetime member of the American Legion, Red Cross and YMCA.
BOL, he even went to Georgetown University Law Center with Cpl. Conroy and became the football team’s mascot. During halftime shows, Stubby would nudge a football around the field with his schnoz. The fans totally loved the pooch.
In 1926, Stubby died peacefully in Cpl. Conroy’s arms. He is buried at the Smithsonian Institution, in an exhibit called “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War.”
I forgot to mention Stubby’s breed. Stubby was what would now be called a Pit Bull. If this hero were alive today, he wouldn’t be able to live on any U.S. Army or Marine Corps base, because the military bans Pit Bulls – along with Rottweilers, Dobermans and Chows.
That makes me very sad, and very mad. I sure hope that in Stubby’s honor – and in honor of all the men, women and dogs who have served their country so bravely, and have loved these dogs so dearly – the ban will be lifted one day soon.
Happy Veterans Day.