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Tag: stubby

Movie industry does what World War I could not: It silences Stubby, the heroic canine

The animated, true story of Stubby, the most decorated dog of World War I, was overshadowed by big studio releases when the movie came out this Spring, and now it appears to be getting overlooked when it comes to DVD sales.

As the film’s writer and director sees it, his movie about the underdog who became a military hero, is finding itself in an underdog position as well.

The movie was the first release by Fun Academy Motion Pictures Studios, which writer-director-executive producer Richard Lanni describes as a new company “carving a new niche for real-life storytelling in a crowded family entertainment landscape of fantasy and fairytale.”

But judging from open letters he has written to fans on the movie’s website, that has been tough going.

Stubby was saved from the streets in New Haven, Connecticut, where Private First Class Robert Conroy was training for duty nearby on the grounds of Yale University. When Conroy was sent overseas, he snuck Stubby along with him.

He would go on to serve as a messenger, guard and more. Over the course of his life, Stubby served in 17 battles and is credited with finding wounded soldiers, catching a German spy and, thanks to his sharp sense of smell, warning an entire platoon of a mustard gas attack.

When he returned home, Stubby was the center of attention at parades and met three presidents, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Stubby merited a half-page obituary in the New York Times when he died in 1926 in the arms of Conroy at his home.

Stubby’s remains were gifted to the the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where the public can visit a stuffed version of him at the National Museum of American History.

The animated movie, while it got decent reviews, didn’t sell too many tickets upon its release and theater chains all but snubbed it after that.

“Everyone who saw the movie fell in love with Stubby, but there were far too many empty seats in theaters nationwide,” Lanni wrote. “Despite the enthusiastic responses we’ve received from parents, dog lovers, teachers, military families, history buffs, and kids of all ages, we simply can’t guarantee the film will remain available …

“After a challenging opening weekend, we must remember the story of Stubby. He was tenacious, resilient, and determined, and we must be the same. We’re not dead, but we are wounded and must stay in the fight.”

Now Lanni is finding the Blu-Ray version is difficult to get to consumers, as well.

“…We find ourselves fighting yet another uphill battle to make this film available to the wide audience it deserves,” Lanni wrote on the website, saying, because his new studio isn’t recognized, he has been denied the opportunity to sell DVDs on both Amazon.com and Walmart.com.

“The rationale, it seems, stems from those stores’ vendor approval policies. To put it simply, they don’t accept that a company capable of producing and distributing an award-winning animated feature film on four continents is also capable of delivering product to their store shelves…

“To put it another way, we are not recognized as a film studio in our own right and have not been presented with a process to apply for consideration as a film studio.”

As a result, he is offering it on his own, through the movie’s online store. The DVD will come out in early November, but you can pre-order it here.

New animated film tells story of Stubby, the most decorated dog of World War 1

The story of Stubby, a stray dog who was sneaked into Europe by U.S. soldiers and went on to become the most decorated dog of World War I, will be told in a new animated film being released this month.

Stubby was in the trenches during 17 battles, where he was injured in a gas attack and later used his keen nose to give troops early warning of chemical shellings. He even had his own custom-made gas mask.

He has been described as everything from a pit bull to a Boston terrier, but his heroics have never been disputed.

A new film, “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” opens April 13, according to the Associated Press

Stubby was found on the Yale campus.

He was adopted in 1917 J. Robert Conroy, of New Britain, while he was training in New Haven.

When Conroy shipped out to France, Stubby was smuggled aboard the USS Minnesota in an overcoat.

He became the mascot of the 102nd Regiment by charming officers with his ability to salute, a trick which Conroy taught him.

He also would stand by injured soldiers on the battlefield and alert medics by barking. He was credited with capturing a German soldier he discovered behind the Allied lines, biting him on the rear end and holding on until help arrived.

“What I think meant the most to my grandfather is that Stubby took some of the edge off what was a horrific war,” said Conroy’s grandson, Curt Deane. “There was just an absolute comfort that soldiers got from seeing him. He was, in fact, the first service dog.”

stubbyAfter he returned from the war, Stubby became famous and toured the country. He posed for photos with celebrities and veterans and met three presidents, Deane said.

Stubby died in 1926. His hide was placed over a plaster cast and is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

Director Richard Lanni says he tried to be as authentic as possible when telling the story of Stubby.

The filmmakers have partnered with Humane Society of the United States and approximately 90 other regional and national animal organizations to help promote the adoption of stray dogs.

The film features the voices of Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter and Gerard Depardieu.

(Photos: Stubby in an April, 1919 homecoming parade for World War I veterans in Hartford, courtesy Connecticut State Library, via AP)

“Move over vegetables, here comes Fonzie”

Yesterday we brought you slow-motion dogs. Today we’ll take a look at no-motion dogs — those whose owners like to keep them around, even after death.

As the first episode of “The Marriage Ref”  showed, the practice is seen by some, perhaps most, as horrific, while still others consider it a fitting tribute to their pet.

The new show, a Jerry Seinfeld creation that premiered this week, included a segment on a marital spat over a husband’s decision — over his wife’s objections — to “stuff” his deceased Boston Terrier, Fonzie.

The show’s resident fact checker reported that only about 1,000 people a year have their pets “stuffed,” and its panel of “experts,” which included Seinfeld, Kelly Ripa and Alec Baldwin, all sided with the wife in the dispute, concluding that the practice was bizarre and Fonzie shouldn’t be displayed, shrine-like, in the couple’s home.

With that, the husband agreed to move Fonzie to the attic, which is where a lot of “stuffed” animals end up.

The show didn’t get into the specifics of how Fonzie was preserved after death, instead just using the misnomer “stuffed.” But apparently he was freeze-dried, an increasingly common technique being used by taxidermists and others — and at a rate that I think probably exceeds that reported by the “fact-checker,”  NBC News reporter Natalie Morales.

I did some research into the practice in connection with my forthcoming book about dog cloning, looking back at the days when “stuffed” animals really were stuffed, the more modern form of “mounting” or stretching their pelts over a plastic form, and the more modern yet version, freeze-drying.

As part of my research, I interviewed Chris Calagan in West Virginia, owner of Perpetual Pet, which has been freeze drying pets since 2002, when he and his wife started with their own cat, Naomi.

Posing the pet and removing the moisture in his freeze drying machine is a process that can take months, depending on the pet’s size, Calagan explained to me.

“We don’t put a hole in it. It’s just through osmosis, very gradual, like drying an orange,” he said. “The moisture comes out through the peeling.”

Freeze drying is the latest variation of a practice that goes back to Victorian times, and one to which many have turned over the years.

Stubby, a pit bull who was the most decorated dog of World War I, was stuffed after his death and displayed at the Smithsonian.

When cowboy star Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger, died in 1965 at age 33, the Rogers family had him mounted, his skin stretched over a plastic mold, posed proudly in the position of a horse at its liveliest – reared up on its hind legs. Trigger became the main draw at the Roy Rogers/Dale Evans Museum. The Rogers also had Dale Evans’ horse, Buttermilk, and their German shepherd, Bullet, mounted to become museum pieces. Rogers, before his death in 1998, joked about having his own body “stuffed” and placed atop his rearing horse, but he never actually pursued that.

ScrubsMore recently, the mounted pet returned to popular culture in the television show “Scrubs,” in which a lifeless dog named Rowdy had a recurring role.

To some, it’s far to creepy a thing to ever consider. Others pursue it precisely because it is so quirky. But the majority of pet owners do it because of a sincere wish to keep a beloved dog around — in a state they can view and touch.

As with cloning, those who have done it might face a certain amount of ridicule, but, more often than not, they don’t care what anybody else thinks. In fact, they’d probably have two words for those who judge them: Stuff it.

Dwarfism gene found in short-legged dogs

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The same gene that causes some breeds of dogs to have short, stubby legs might also cause dwarfism in people, a new study says.

Scientists think this gene — called a retrogene — controls certain growth receptors. By comparing breeds like basset hounds, corgis and dachsunds to longer-legged breeds,  scientists isolated the gene that stunted growth in dogs, according to a paper in the new issue of the journal Science.

This gene hasn’t “been associated with dwarfism in the past,” says Heidi Parker, first author of the study, so it “opens up a new avenue, a new place to look,” for the cause of some types in humans

Parker, of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Md., compared the genomes of 95 short-legged dogs from eight breeds with the genomes of 702 dogs from 64 breeds without the trait. Then, in a more detailed analysis, the researchers pinpointed an extra stretch of DNA on chromosome 18 in every dog from the eight short-legged breeds, but in none of 204 control dogs they examined, according to an article in Science News.

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Stubby’s tale: When pit bulls were heroes

Given the Pentagon’s decision to ban pit bulls and other “dangerous” dog breeds from Army housing, we thought it would be a good time to revisit Stubby, the stray pit bull who became the most decorated canine soldier of World War 1.

At war’s end, Stubby was treated like a hero. Doors were opened for him, as opposed to being slammed in his face. Today, in light of a recently approved Pentagon policy, soldiers returning home — if they have a pit bull, Rottweiler, chow or Doberman Pinscher in their family — won’t be allowed to keep them if they live on a military base. (Thanks for fighting for our “freedom,” though.)

It’s just the latest breed-specific slap in the face to pit bulls, a breed that once served not just in battle (Stubby saw action in 17), but as corporate mascots (Nipper for RCA Victor) and TV show characters (Petey on “Our Gang”).

Stubby, though he entered the armed forces surreptitiously, was the only dog to be promoted to “Sergeant” through combat.

Stubby was found on the Yale campus — parts of which were being used as a training encampment — in 1917. He was taken in by John Robert Conroy and other soldiers, marched alongside them through training and, when time came to ship out to France, was smuggled aboard the USS Minnesota in an overcoat.

Overseas, he served as a morale-booster, sentry and more.

In April 1918, Stubby, along with the 102nd Infantry, participated in the raid on the German held town of Schieprey. As the Germans withdrew they threw hand grenades at the pursing allies, one of which wounded Stubby in the foreleg.

In the Argonne, Stubby was credited with ferreting out a German spy and holding on to the seat of his pants until soldiers arrived to complete the capture.

Stubby eventually ended up in a hospital when his master, Corporal J. Robert Conroy, was wounded. After doing hospital duty, he and Conroy returned to their unit, and served for the remainder of the way.

At war’s end, he was smuggled back home.

Upon his return, he was made a lifetime member of the American legion. He marched in every legion parade and attended every legion convention from the end of the war until his death. He met three presidents — Wilson, Harding and Coolidge.

In 1921 General Pershing, commander of American Forces during the War, awarded Stubby a gold hero dog’s medal that was commissioned by the Humane Education Society.

One New York City hotel, the Grand Hotel Majestic, lifted its ban on dogs so that Stubby could stay there enroute to one of many visits to Washington.

When Conroy went to Georgetown to study law, Stubby went along and served as mascot for the football team. Some say his halftime antics — he would push a football around the field with his nose — was the origin of the halftime show.

Stubby died in 1926. His obituary in the New York Times ran three columns wide for half a page.

His remains were mounted by a taxidermist and presented for display at the Smithsonian. From 2000 to 2003, he was loaned to the Connecticut National Guard Armory, where he was exhibited for three years.

All that history seems to be lost on the Pentagon — as does that of Rottweilers and Dobermans who have served the country, and continue to.

If remembering Stubby’s life isn’t enough to persuade the Pentagon that their action was rash, ill-conceived and discriminatory, then they should borrow from another chapter of his legacy, that being the last one:

They should take their new policy and stuff it.

(Photos and source material: Connecticut Military Department)

Army breed bans come under fire

A Pentagon memorandum issued earlier this year that bans pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and chows from living on Army bases has come under fire as being cold, backwards, misguided and an insult to soldiers who have served their country.

The Pentagon memo, dated Jan. 5, 2009, specifies that those breeds will no longer be allowed in Army housing — but it exempts those already housed. Any member of the military who switched bases, however, would be subject to its terms. The Air Force also has enacted a breed-selective policy and the Navy is expected to do the same.

Best Friends Animal Society in Utah said yesterday it is calling on the U.S. military to reverse the ban, which the organization says is “tearing apart families and their dogs at bases across the country.”

Best Friends attorney Ledy VanKavage said the memo is a “knee-jerk reaction” that “targets the wrong end of the leash. Our armed forces should target reckless owners, not a particular breed of dog.”

The memorandum states families “may not board in privatized housing” any dog of a breed — or a mix of breeds –that is deemed aggressive or potentially aggressive. The memorandum defines “aggressive or potentially aggressive breeds of dogs, “as pit bulls (American Staffordshire bull terriers or English Staffordshire bull terriers), Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, chows, and wolf hybrids.”

”Behind that cold language are stories of our heroes and their families being separated from their dogs,” VanKavage said.

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