- Alisha Barnes
It's November 2004, and a group of Marines called the Lava Dogs of the First Battalion,Third Marine Regiment, stationed in Fallujah, Iraq, are about to clear a room in an abandoned home when they hear a suspicious sound. Instead of immediately shooting, which could save their lives if an enemy were in the other room, the Marines just listen. They hear something small sniffing and clicking around the old home. Before anyone can shoot, they notice what it is: a puppy. From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman is the story of what happens to a puppy who attaches himself to a group of Marines.
The Marines decide to name the dog "Lava" after their unit, a rough-and-tough bunch who pride themselves on their brawniness. However, when it comes to this dog it seems like even tough Marines have a soft spot. Lava is a terror; he tears up everything that is left out, urinates in all of their boots, and barks at every single noise he hears. The guys can't seem to get enough of him, though. There's only one problem: the Marines aren't allowed in any circumstances to take in an animal during combat. General Order 1-A states that prohibited activities for service members include "adopting as pets or mascots, caring for, or feeding any type of domestic or wild animal." There have been instances where dogs have been killed to obey this rule, but for some reason these Marines cannot allow themselves to set Lava free, let alone put him to sleep.
Lava bonds with Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman, who allows him to sleep at the bottom of his sleeping bag. Kopelman wants to make sure that this dog doesn't share the same fate as other dogs who have lost their lives in Iraq. He makes it his mission to keep Lava and bring him home to the United States. This is a problem though. They can't transport Lava without getting his vaccinations, and they can't get his vaccinations because it is against General Order 1-A to have him. Kopelman, the other Marines, a couple of journalists, a few Iraqis, and many more band together to ensure that this darling little guy makes it back to the United States where he can enjoy freedom and safety.