Some might describe it as a shaggy dog story but the tale of how a stray mutt ended up as a sergeant in the US Army is being celebrated this week in Cork in advance of an animated film chronicling the extraordinary story opening in Irish cinemas.
Sgt Stubby: An Unlikely Hero is the brainchild of sometime Kinsale resident and documentary filmmaker, Richard Lanni who turned to Corkman, Tom Sheehan for the initial funding to help turn his dream of telling the story of a dog who ended up a World War I hero into cinematic reality.
Mr Lanni, who previously directed the World War II documentary series, The Road to Victory, persuaded Mr Sheehan to help out and Cork investors raised €3 million to help get the project off the ground with the remainder of the €15 million funding coming from the US.
"I was researching a series called Over There - Doughboys and the Great War which charts the American experience in World War I and I came across the story of Stubby and I thought 'Oh I have to tell this story and it has to be an animated movie," Mr Lanni told TV's Talking Pictures.
Mr Sheehan said he was happy to get involved in the project as executive producer. “When I heard the story of Stubby, I was mesmerised - it was a story of rags to riches, bravery, courage, friendship and loyalty - all of the values to which we aspire, and which we want to pass on to our children.”
Narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, the 85 minute feature tells of how young American soldier Robert Conroy, voiced by Percy Jackson star Logan Lerman, rescues a stray Boston Terrier with a stubby tail from the streets of New Haven, Connecticut on the eve of America's entry into World War I.
The CGI film begins when Stubby wanders into Conroy's training camp where the young soldier gives him a meal and a name and it follows their incredible adventure together to France where they befriend a French infantryman, Gaston Baptiste, voiced by Gerard Depardieu.
As war raged all around, Stubby kept the trenches vermin-free, alerted his comrades to incoming attacks, rescued the wounded in No Man’s Land and even caught a German spy, with his exploits making front page news back in the US where he captured the heart of the nation, said Mr Lanni.
According to historian Ann Bausum who has written a book about the canine entitled Stubby: The War Dog, Stubby was never actually promoted to sergeant but he did become a hero as a result of his exploits with Conroy and his 102nd Infantry Regiment unit on the Western Front.
"Stubby's brave deeds earned him a place in history and in the Smithsonian Institution where his stuffed body can still be seen and almost 100 years later, his great deeds and brave heart make him an animal hero to fall in love with and treasure all over again."
Sgt Stubby: An Unlikely Hero opens in Irish cinema as on Friday, August 10th.