From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava

From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava

by Jay Kopelman, Melinda Roth


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When Marines enter an abandoned house in Fallujah, Iraq, and hear a suspicious noise, they clench their weapons, edge around the corner, and prepare to open fire. What they find during the U.S -led attack on the "most dangerous city on Earth," however, is not an insurgent bent on revenge, but a tiny puppy left behind when most of the city’s population fled before the bombing. Despite military law that forbids the keeping of pets, the Marines de-flea the pup with kerosene, de-worm him with chewing tobacco, and fill him up on Meals Ready to Eat.Thus begins the dramatic rescue attempt of a dog named Lava and Lava’s rescue of at least one Marine, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman, from the emotional ravages of war. From hardened Marines to war-time journalists to endangered Iraqi citizens, From Baghdad, With Love tells an unforgettable true story of an unlikely band of heroes who learn unexpected lessons about life, death, and war from a mangy little flea-ridden refugee.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592289806
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 10/01/2006
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Jay Kopelman is a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps; he was last stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. A competitive bicyclist, Jay lives in La Jolla, California, with his wife, Pam Godde, stepson, their two dogs, Lava and Koda, and Cheddar the cat. Both Jay and his wife, an anthropologist, are avid surfers. They're expecting their second child in January 2007. Melinda Roth works for a political lobbyist in Chicago, where she lives with her family.

Read an Excerpt

Prologue“So he sent the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden he put winged ones and a flaming sword turning every way to keep the way to the tree of life.”Genesis 3:24In an abandoned house in the northeast section of Fallujah, members of the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines called the “Lava Dogs” froze when they heard a series of clicks coming from the last un-checked room of the compound. Grenade pins? Most of the military deaths in Fallujah during the first week of the U.S. invasion happened inside buildings like this where insurgents hid in upper rooms and threw grenades down at the Marines as they moved upwards. There were a lot of head and face injuries, and while the Lava Dogs considered themselves some of the toughest Marines around — they named themselves out of respect for the jagged pumice they trained on back in Hawaii — just being a Lava Dog didn't shield you from a grenade’s fancy special effects. Being careful did. Being focused did. Having your weapon locked and loaded when you inched around every corner did.Click. Click. Click….Click If a grenade did detach your face from your skull, at least you checked out in the GPS coordinate closest to Heaven, not that you'd have adequate excuses prepared once you got there, because lines between good and evil here in the battle zone required more than reading glasses to see. But Iraq was considered by most biblical archeologists to be the location of the Garden of Eden — God’s only hard copy of Heaven, his Paradise on Earth – and whether Abraham, Mohammad or Jesus called your cadence, it’s where it officially all started and where it officially all went bad.Good marketing potential for the region at first though, because it trademarked the birthplace of Abraham, the Tower of Babel and the construction of Babylon in addition to agriculture, writing, the wheel, the zodiac, legal theory, bureaucracy and urbanization. From the beginning, everyone wanted a piece of the place which went from the Mesopotamians to the Sumerians to the Akkadians to the Empire of Ur to the Babylonians to the Assyrians to the Persians to the Greeks to the Arabs to the Mongols to the Turks to the British. None of these were polite handovers either. By the time Saddam Hussein got to the land of milk and honey, it had been captured, pillaged, beaten and raped by so many cultures over such a long period of time, there was little left except a whole lot of desert covering a whole lot of oil. That, and claims by locals living near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that the Garden of Eden and its Tree of Life stood in the middle of their very town. They built a wall around the area, constructed the Garden of Eden Hotel and tourism flourished for a short while. Then the Americans came, and because the folks living in the area supported the newest invasion, Hussein drained all of their water. Soon the Tree of Life died, members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq took over the Garden of Eden Hotel and “Down With Americans” was painted all over the walls of Paradise.Clickclickclickclick.Maybe timed explosives.If this country was Paradise, then the Marines weren't taking any bets on Hell. Outside the building they searched, gun ships prowled the skies looking for hiding insurgents as pockmarked Humvees patrolled what was left of the streets. Every car in the city was targeted because of bomb risks. Every loose wire was suspect. Every building was searched, and “Jihad, Jihad, Jihad” plastered every wall. Throughout the first days of the invasion of Fallujah, the Marines discovered weapons caches, suicide vests and large amounts of heroin, speed, and cocaine apparently used to bolster suicide bombers’ courage. They found dead bodies of fighters from Chechnya, Syria, Libya, Jordan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. They walked into human slaughterhouses with hooks hanging from the ceilings, black masks, knives, bloody straw mats and videos of beheadings. They freed emaciated prisoners shackled and insane with fear.Fallujah, near the center of where it all began, was now a city cordoned off from the rest of the world, inhabited only by invisible snipers and stray dogs feasting on the dead.Click. Snuffle. Snuffle. Click.The Lava Dogs tightened their jaws and clenched their weapons as they ran through the rules in their heads: cover danger areas, stay low, move stealthily, be prepared to adapt and eliminate threats.Snuffle. Clickclickclick. Snufflesnuffle.An insurgent strapping a bomb to his chest? They should have prepped the room first with a grenade, tossed it in and just let it do all the dirty work. Instead they backed up to the walls on either side of the doorway and positioned their weapons to fire. They thrust the guns around the corner, squared off and zeroed in on the clicks as their target rushed to the other side of the room. “Holy shit.”He turned at the sound of their voices and stared at them. “What the hell? ”He cocked his head trying to interpret their intent rather than their words.“You gotta be kidding.”Then he yipped, wagged his tail and clicked his toenails on the floor as he pranced up and down in place, happy it seemed someone found him at last. ***Part I “In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”Genesis 3:17 Chapter OneI heard someone say once that guilty people live violent lives. At the time, I didn't really get it, but if what they meant was the way guilt waits in ambush, traps your well-trained sense of control and then tortures you into confessions you'd just as soon not make, I now understand.I mean, I guess it’s guilt. That’s one part of my confession. Maybe it’s just what the therapist calls post-traumatic stress, even though I've only been home for a week, or maybe some chemical imbalance brought on recently by any number of issues or maybe just residue from the sleeping pills still floating through my blood stream, but hell, what else besides guilt has the capacity to beach land so much fear? Anxiety, maybe. Anxiety assumes less culpability, implies less of an offense, offers more of an excuse. Or compulsiveness. Along with nightmares, flashbacks, moodiness, alcoholism and depression, they said something about a compulsive disorder that could send your brain cells scurrying into all sorts of witless directions, and between checking incoming email, praying for the phone to ring and counting the paces between one wall and the next, it seems entirely plausible. But then, so did getting Lava out of Iraq in the first place, and how impeachable was that offense after Allah, Jehovah, Jesus, Lady Luck and Santa Clause made it pretty clear it wasn't on their list of things to do this year? I check the email again. Nothing. It’s the middle of the day there in Baghdad, the middle of the night here in California and no time in particular everywhere else in between. Something must have gone wrong.I mean, what else besides guilt would drive a man to do what I did back there? Obsession, perhaps, but that implies a lifetime of prescription slips from the therapist and besides, not everyone involved in the rescue – the Marines, the journalists, the Iraqis, the personal security guys — could be crazy. Maybe they could. Nothing seems right-side-up anymore and hasn't for some time now. I think the pacing is what’s getting to me. The back-and-forth unearths all kinds of radioactive crap I don't want hanging around. Like a lot of faces. Weird, dreamy faces. Faces of stray dogs I fed at the Syrian border. Faces of embedded journalists in Fallujah with terror dripping down them like sweat. Faces of Iraqis smashed into the street like ripe banana meat under your boot and the question of whether a face is really a face if there’s no one home behind it. Mostly, though, faces of people who risked their lives to try and help save Lava. They bother me the most, and that’s the second part of the confession. I think we all let the mangy, little flea-bitten refugee get to us – as if compassion was some sinister germ intent on infection – and now that we've all been bitten by the contagion, now that it comes down to the end, now that all other roads of escape are closed for good, I feel responsible to them to make sure Lava gets out alive. Maybe the little shit is dead already. Or maybe they didn't make it through and he’s now lost on the streets of Baghdad wondering where everybody went. There were so many times when I figured the best thing for the little guy was to just shoot him in the head – yeah, yeah, I know how that sounds – but really, I mean I couldn't stand the thought of him joining the other stray dogs who hobbled around on three legs looking for bodies to eat. I remember after the initial bombing in Fallujah, there were dead Iraqis all over the place and seeing dogs feasting on the remains and thinking this must be the only place on Earth where the dead nourished the living and how screwed up that seemed. Now I pray that if Lava doesn't make it through, he'll find a body somewhere in Baghdad to keep him alive for just one more day.Which brings me to the third part of the confession: No matter how bad things get, it’s still better to be alive. And I want Lava to stay alive. I want to know he’s breathing and leaping after dust balls and chasing imaginary enemies in his sleep. I want him to be alive, because then there’s still hope that he'll make it here to California and get to be an American dog who runs on the beach and chases the mailman instead of strangers with guns. I want him to be alive almost more than anything I can think of.The fourth part of the confession is that when the phone finally rings, I don't want to answer it. I sit there and stare at the thing as if it’s a live RPG that just landed in the room. So this is fear.The last part of the confession is that when I do pick up the receiver and listen to the news, I break down and cry for the second time in my adult life.

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From Baghdad, with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 101 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cant say enough about this book. It is meant to be read not only by animal lovers but everyone in general. Authors givr you an insight to a real war....not the small selective elements that we are fed by the media. I applaud all the people who took part in rescuing Lava. There arent any proper words to describe the kind of love one receives from a dog....a dog who cant speak...yet is capable to showing you the ultimate loyal pure love. I highly recommend this book to everyone. As for you Lava....what a lucky flea infested mutt you are...not only you have a wondergul family you received what so many fight for.....freedom! Happy life Lava
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. I applaud Col. Kopelman for all he did to bring Lava home from Iraq.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
awesome book even in the midst of a cruel & unwarranted war, this story of love for a dog is heartwarming.
julie443 More than 1 year ago
I am usually a crime, mystery, and high action lover, so I was worried that this would be too "cute" for my liking. I quickly realized that I could not put this book down! It is suspenseful and it is the ONLY book I have ever wanted to read twice! You must read it!
auntbah More than 1 year ago
Once you pick it up you won't want to put it down until you're finished.
It is even more endearing because it is a true story. You are captivated and want to help Lava.
dcoward on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How a US marine fighting in Iraq managed to rescue and adopt an Iraqi dog. Fascinating look both at war torn Iraq and the life of a men fighting in a war.
victor.p on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A US officer, lieutenant colonel Jay Kopelman comes across a stray puppy while clearing an abandoned building in Iraq. At first the puppy was terrified an alone but was also glad to see someone around, so as was the Kopelman, he was amazed to see a creature so small survive in a battle zone with terrifying sounds during the night and day. Not wanting to kill the puppy as he was suppose to due to the rules to the good men of the US are, Kopelman adopted him and named him after their company, lava. Each member bonded with lava and treated him like he was part of the team more importantly; the little guy had made his way into Kopelman's heart. This was a wonderful story of love between a soldier and a strayed puppy.I would suggest this book for those who enjoy reading love and war genre books as this book had a great deal of love. It was also funny, poignant and harrowing.
Ltlmiss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Being a dog-lover, I loved this book. It's a fast read, and really humanizes the Marines. I learned a lot about what really went on in the Middle East during the first elections in Iraq. It was nice to get some political history surrounded by a heart-warming story.
claytonroos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
great book but very sad at times
IdahoTaterBug on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love this book. I couldn't put it down. It is a short book but so well written and a wonderful story!
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A US officer (Kopelman) and his troops come across a stray puppy while clearing an abandoned building in Iraq. Not wanting to kill the puppy, as they are supposed to, they adopt him, name him Lava after their company, and hide him from the powers that be. Kopelman tries to keep his distance from him at first, but the fiesty antics of Lava are impossible to ignore and soon the little guy has wormed his way into Kopelman's heart. But what are they going to do when Kopelman has to go back to the U.S.?This was a wonderful story of love triumphing over impossible odds. I also enjoyed hearing a first hand account of what life is like in Iraq and gained a lot of knowledge beyond what you hear in the news. Those interested in current events or who love animals can't miss with this one.
xmaystarx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Quick and informative read. The story of the puppy is very touching and the basis of the book but so much more is learned of the lives of our soldiers in Baghdad.
lorielibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gritty images of soldier life in Iraq, harrowing escape for an innocent puppy, grief for all those innocents (two and four-legged) left behind.
judye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A simple story simply written. soldier (Kopelman) stumbles on a pup in the course of his frontline duties. He and his peers become attached to the dog and go to great lengths to protect and rescue him from Iraq. The realities of war juxtaposed against the need for love and affection, returned in spades by the dog, Lava.
jrbeach on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The dog story itself is not really long enough for a book, so the authors allow themselves to ramble off on tangents. My copy was an audio book, so I found the recitiations of car bombings etc. a little tedious, since I couldn't just skip over those parts, but I didn't find the non-dog discussions too tedious, and after all, if Kopelman didn't find the dog in the middle of a war there would be no story.
JillH on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well written, heart-warming story
LavaDog More than 1 year ago
I still can't believe this guy stole my dog while I was on patrol. Use to feed him cans of Spam to fatten him up. He use to sleep next to me on top of the roof. We actually found him in a gutter in a four inch pipe under the driveway ramp.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once I picked up From Baghdad, With Love, and started reading, I could not put it down. It is hands down one of the best books I have ever read. I must admit that some parts of the book were boring, and I didn’t quite understand how they fit into the story, but once I kept reading the better it got. I love how the author Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman writes about his journey on getting Lava to the United States. But it also teaches the reader facts about the war in Iraq and what was happening where he was stationed. The book teaches a great lesson, which is that you always have to keep trying, no matter what happened before. Honestly, I started to stop believing that Lava would ever get to go to Kopelman’s home in California. There were so many failed attempts to getting Lava to the United States, but by having Jon Van Zante there to keep encouraging them they were able to get Lava safely to the United States. It killed me to read the parts when Kopelman thought about how Lava would die; I wanted to scream “I KNOW HE’S ALIVE. THE BACK OF THE BOOK SAYS THAT KOPELMAN LIVES WITH LAVA IN CALIFORNIA! JUST GET TO THE HAPPY PART ALREADY!” Finding Lava gives Kopelman and all the other Marines that help take care of the puppy hope to keep moving forward and that it will get better. I think that high schools would be most likely to read this book because they have some knowledge about what was going on in Iraq during the war. Even if they do not know much about the war, the book helps describe it. I know it has helped me understand what was going on in Iraq from the point of view from a soldier instead of the press. I don’t think younger kids should read this book because there is a strong language usage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book From Baghdad With Love is an amazing and heartwarming story. Once I heard that the book was about a dog I knew I wanted to read it. I am one of the biggest dog lovers there is so this book was right up my alley. This book combines a great war memoir and a dog story all in one, making this one of my favorites. It was about a Marine named Jay Kopelman and his team found an Iraqi puppy which they would name Lava. They all grew much attached and knew they had to get him to the United States. There were many bumps in the road along the way. There were many organizations that joined the cause to get Lava to the United States, which showed the humanity of people supporting the troops, especially this Marine. I loved how everyone worked together and never gave up in the end. Another reason why I like this book because it was real and raw and Jay Kopelman didn’t hold back with any of his descriptions. Some parts of the book explained disturbing pictures at times but, it showed me exactly what the U.S soldiers see and experience every day. It also showed LT. Kopelman’s friendship unfold from beginning to end and how Lava became such a big part in his life. I got to see Lava grow up and affect so many others lives and how he helped so many Marines forget just for a second that they were at war and could possibly never come home. I wouldn’t recommend this to littler kids because of the descriptions, but I think this is a great book for teenagers or adults. All the way through the book I never wanted to put it down. Each chapter captivates you and forces your mind to think all of the possibilities like whether Lava would make it in the end or not. I read the book in 3 days and enjoyed every bit of it. I am so happy that I got to read this truly endearing dog story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was a little afraid to read this book because I am so softhearted about any animal (especially dogs) being hurt in any way. However this book was wonderful so if you are like I am and are cautious about reading it go ahead buy it and enjoy!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lauren_Noel_Bashore More than 1 year ago
My mama's boyfriend, Kenneth Licklider, owner of Vohne Liche Kennels, told me to read this and I had no clue he had such an amazing deal with this story even though his part is so little. Great story and I even met the author. Loved it. (: