Soldiers have been known to adopt pets in war zones, and almost anyone who’s ever owned a dog can attest that they can be truly heroic at times. Unsurprisingly, some of the dogs adopted by soldiers have become war heroes in their own right. Sergeant Stubby, however, has the distinction of being the first canine to ever be awarded a rank in the American military.

Meet Stubby

In 1917, Sergeant Stubby was found as a little brindle pup by Private J. Robert Conroy in the training field at Camp Yale. The pup quickly became the mascot of Private Conroy’s unit, the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division.

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Even though dogs were supposed to be banned from army camps, Stubby (he hadn’t earned his rank yet) was allowed to stay because he had such a great effect on the soldiers’ morale.

Sergeant Stubby’s military career

Stubby’s unit was deployed to France in October 1917 and the dog had to be smuggled over in the coal bin. Stubby suffered badly from a gas attack early on in his career but survived with a keen sense for the gas in the air. Soon after recovery, he saved his unit from another gassing by alerting the soldiers as they slept.

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Stubby was famous among his unit for finding wounded soldiers and alerting paramedics or leading them back to safety. The brave canine even captured a German spy once, attacking him as the spy was mapping the unit’s position and keeping him there until soldiers arrived. This capture is what finally earned Stubby his rank as a Sergeant.

After the war

After the war, Sergeant Stubby had to once again be smuggled along with his unit. He didn’t simply retire upon his return, however. Stubby was made a lifetime member of the American Legion, attending their conventions and marching in their parades.

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Eventually, Conroy would go on to study law at Georgetown University and took his famous dog with him. Sergeant Stubby was quickly made the mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas and kept that position until his death.