Before he became the most decorated war dog in American history, Sergeant Stubby was homeless: unwanted, unwashed, unloved, and scrounging for scraps on the streets of Connecticut.
As documented in history books but largely forgotten today, Stubby was no ordinary stray; he was a tenacious canine, a courageous scout and a fiercely loyal friend.
For his valorous actions, Stubby is recognized as the most-decorated dog in American history. But before he was a hero, he was homeless: unwanted, unwashed, unloved, scrounging for scraps on the streets of New Haven, Connecticut in 1917. His fortunes changed, however, when he ran into a young Soldier training on the grounds of Yale University – Private First Class Robert Conroy of the 102nd Infantry Regiment – who adopted the scrappy little stray and named him Stubby for his short stature and tail.
The U.S. military didn’t have an official “military working dog” program at that time, but Stubby’s natural survival instincts and devotion to his adoptive family quickly made him an invaluable addition to the men of the 102nd. He received only one piece of formal training from Conroy and his buddies. When their commanding officer demanded to know why there was a dog in the ranks, Stubby raised his right paw to salute, rendering the officer speechless and ensuring Stubby’s place as the official mascot of the Yankee Division.
When the Yankee Division arrived in France, Stubby was given special orders to accompany them to the front lines and saw action in four offensives and 17 battles, serving for 18 months on the western front. He located wounded Soldiers in “No Man’s Land” and – since he could hear the whine of incoming artillery shells before humans – became adept at warning his new family when to take cover. His keen sense of smell gave him the ability to detect incoming mustard gas attacks, once saving an entire company by alerting the men to don their gasmasks.
Following the retaking of Chateau-Thierry by the U.S., the women of the town made Stubby a chamois coat on which were pinned his many medals. Able to differentiate between English and German, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant after catching a German spy and became the most decorated war dog in history. Following the war, Stubby returned home to a hero’s welcome, touring the country leading victory parades, meeting three sitting U.S. presidents (Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge), appearing on Vaudevillian stages and serving as the mascot for Georgetown University, where Conroy was studying law.