Stubby's story begins in 1917 when America is about to enter the war. A stowaway dog befriends Private James Robert "Bob" Conroy at the Connecticut National Guard camp at Yale University and the two become inseparable. Stubby also wins over the commanding officer and is soon made an official member of the 102nd Infantry of the 26th division. What follows is an epic tale of how man's best friend becomes an invaluable soldier on the front lines and in the trenches, a decorated war hero and an inspiration to a country long after the troops returned home.
Children's book author Bausum's adult nonfiction debut introduces readers to "Sergeant" Stubby, a stump-tailed terrier mutt that became the mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment Yankee Division in WWI. His caretaker, James Robert Conroy, came across Stubby at a military training camp on Yale University campus and surreptitiously hid the dog aboard the Minnesota vessel when his unit traveled to the warfront in France. While Conroy worked as a scout and dispatch rider, Stubby used his skills to boost morale, alert others to the scent of gas, and point medics toward wounded allies on the battlefield. The dog learned to salute and was outfitted with his own ID tags, gas mask, and military coat with authentic patches and victory medals. Aside from an enduring tale of companionship, Bausum provides details into the lives of the soldiers, including their artillery, typical diet, and the realities of illness and "unspeakably horrid deaths." After the war, Stubby's notoriety continued with a stint in vaudeville and as mascot to the Georgetown University football team where Conroy was studying law. Bausum's narrative is solidly researched, if sometimes speculative, and effectively illustrates a meaningful relationship in which a special dog helped a soldier "see beyond the horror and uncertainty of combat to the beauty of just being alive." B&w photos.