We all know that dogs are man’s best friend, but the story of Stubby the Combat Dog (or Sergeant Stubby to you and me) is one of the most heroic canine tales in modern history.
Stubby, who was found on Yale Campus in 1917 by a young man named John Robert Conroy, was a stray brindle Staffordshire bull terrier type puppy with a short tail (hence the name). Conroy was undergoing military training at the time and instantly formed a bond with Stubby. Fortunately, because Stubby had such a positive effect on morale, he was allowed to stay on campus.
Legend has it that Stubby learned doggy modified versions of all the drills his human counterparts carried out, including a right paw on right eyebrow salute, and recognized the bugle calls.
It was not long before Stubby became the mascot of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division.
When Conroy’s time came to go off to fight in the trenches during World War I, he smuggled Stubby along with him. Little did he know that Stubby was to become the most decorated service dog of World War I and was to even earn himself the official rank of Sergeant.
Stubby’s canine sense of smell and acute hearing enabled him to not only warn his unit of incoming artillery, but also deadly poison gas attacks. Stubby was sensitive to the gas because his first injury was due to exposure to it, so when he smelt it he would run through the trenches barking and biting at the soldiers to warn them.
He is also credited with capturing a German spy, hence his promotion to Sergeant, and was used in the search and rescue of wounded soldiers. Because Stubby could recognize spoken English he would listen for the sound, and was therefore able to successfully rescue wounded soldiers who were between trenches. German speakers probably did not fare as well.
Stubby did not come out of the war unscathed and was wounded himself during a grenade attack. He suffered from shrapnel wounds to his chest and leg and was transferred to a Red Cross hospital, where upon his recovery, in true Stubby style; he effectively became a therapy dog; comforting other soldiers and boosting their morale.
At the end of the war, Stubby had served his country in 17 battles and was awarded many patches and medals for his bravery. He proudly wore these on a coat which was specially made for him by the women of a French town which was liberated by the war.
Stubby went on to meet several US Presidents including Harding, Coolidge and Woodrow Wilson and visited the White House on two occasions. He was also to become Georgetown’s football mascot when Conway studied law at Georgetown University.
Stubby was also a member of the American Legion, the YMCA and the Red Cross and it was down to this wonderful dog that the US Army set up the K-9 Corps for WWII
Stubby died peacefully in his master’s arms on April 4th, 1926.