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Man In Army
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While I've yet to meet Cairo (or as some reports say, â€œKaroâ€), I have had the pleasure of meeting a nearly one-hundred-year-old military dog named Sergeant Stubby. The highly decorated World War I military hero died in 1926, was stuffed, and put on display at the American Red Cross Museum for nearly thirty years. His skin and hair eventually began to deteriorate, so he was taken off display. Eminent war-dog historian Michael Lemish wrote about him in his book War Dogs: A History of Loyalty and Heroism. He had found the dog stored in a shipping crate in an old artifacts room at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The crate read: STUBBY THE DOGâ€”FRAGILE.
While in Washington, D.C., I decided to see if I could pay homage to this granddaddy of U.S. war dogs, and I called ahead to speak with someone who knew where the old relics were stored and how I could get access. I learned that Stubby had been refurbished from nose to tail and was now once again on display. He's down the hall from Dorothy's ruby slippers, toward the end of the large exhibit called The Price of Freedom: Americans at War.
Stubby became a war hero at a time when the United States didn't have any semblance of a war-dog program. The small stray pit bull was taken in by a man who would make him the mascot of the 102nd Infantry in 1917. When the man went to war, he smuggled Stubby over to France by ship. Stubby provided comfort to the wounded and was devoted to his troops, but he became more than a loyal mascot. His â€œheroâ€ title came to him from such feats as when he warned a sleeping sergeant of a gas attack, so that soldiers had adequate time to don their gas masks. He also bit a German infiltrator, who was hobbled by the bite and captured. The dog later suffered a shrapnel wound.
His popularity was immense, and he was grandlyâ€”if unofficiallyâ€”decorated. He had to wear a blanket (given to him by several French women) to hold all his medals and pins. The dog went on to tour the United States, and he hobnobbed with three presidents. Check my link strong man
Eighty-five years after he drew his last breath, I gazed through a glass barrier at Sergeant Stubby, who was now surrounded by a mannequin in a gas mask, an old wooden arm prosthesis, a well-preserved carrier pigeon, and other relics from the war. World War I has been relegated to a small, almost parenthetical, portion of this exhibit. Stubby looked a little plasticized, and his lip contours were bizarrely black, almost Herman Munster-ish. But this was Stubby, in the flesh, or at least in the fur.
Stubby's procurement was not a formal process, but back then in the United States, there were no rule books for war-dog procurement. In fact there was no war-dog program here at all. During World War I, European armies were using dogs to great advantage, particularly as first responders and messengers. The Red Cross suggested a procurement process be initiated, but no appropriation was made. Someone in the General Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Forces proposed setting up a program to buy a supply of five hundred dogs every three months from the French and then setting up kennels in the United States to create a canine corps. Nothing happened.
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