Stubby: Great War Dog
Everyone loves dogs and everyone loves a hero, but it's been a long time since audiences got a real courageous canine in the tradition of Rin Tin Tin and Lassie. Meet Sergeant Stubby, a real life pit bull terrier (or similar breed) who fought in the trenches of World War I as an official member of the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division and came home a highly decorated hero, earning no less than the Purple Heart.
The family friendly film would depict the animal's involvement in the Great War with as little violence as possible, concentrating on Stubby's skills for sniffing out mustard gas and hearing the high pitched whistle of incoming shells before humans could. Other traits to be shown include the dog's alleged abilities to salute with one paw and march with his fellow soldiers. More specific deeds integrated into the plot are Stubby's regular task of locating injured men on the battlefield and his famous capture of a German spy.
Stubby would begin with the initially stray dog's adoption by Yale student John Robert Conroy (cast a Disney Channel or Nickelodeon vet, like a Zac Efron or Josh Peck type), who smuggled his new pet into training camp and later to France, where he began his service as merely a mascot for the troops. As with most movies based on true stories, the film could play around with chronology so that the climax of Stubby's story centers around the shrapnel he caught in his foreleg during combat only two months in. And in the end, we see Stubby return home a celebrity, meeting the President and marching in parades. The dog's death and subsequent stuffing for display at the Smithsonian would understandably be left out of the film.
I see it as Marley & Me meets Operation Dumbo Drop meets the lesser known Disney TV movie Chips, the War Dog, which was based on a similar war dog from the second World War. [Thanks to Mental_Floss magazine for introducing me to Stubby's story].