‘Nubs The Dog: The True Story Of A Mutt, A Marine & A Miracle’

When Maj. Brian Dennis of the United States Marine Corps met a wild stray dog with shorn ears while serving in Iraq, he had no idea of the bond they would form, leading to seismic changes in both their lives. “The general theme of the story of Nubs is that if you’re kind to someone, they’ll never forget you — whether it be person or animal,” Dennis tells Paw Nation.

In October 2007, Dennis and his team of 11 men were in Iraq patrolling the Syrian border. One day, as his team arrived at a border fort, they encountered a pack of stray dogs — not uncommon in the barren, rocky desert that was home to wolves and wild dogs.

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“We all got out of the Humvee and I started working when this dog came running up,” recalls Dennis. “I said, ‘Hey buddy’ and bent down to pet him.” Dennis noticed the dog’s ears had been cut. “I said, ‘You got little nubs for ears.'” The name stuck. The dog whose ears had been shorn off as a puppy by an Iraqi soldier (to make the dog “look tougher,” Dennis says) became known as Nubs.Dennis fed Nubs scraps from his field rations, including bits of ham and frosted strawberry Pop Tarts. “I didn’t think he’d eat the Pop Tart, but he did,” says Dennis.At night, Nubs accompanied the men on night patrols. “I’d get up in the middle of the night to walk the perimeter with my weapon and Nubs would get up and walk next to me like he was doing guard duty,” says Dennis.

The next day, Dennis said goodbye to Nubs, but he didn’t forget about the dog. He began mentioning Nubs in emails he wrote to friends and family back home. “I found a dog in the desert,” Dennis wrote in an email in October 2007. “I call him Nubs. We clicked right away. He flips on his back and makes me rub his stomach.”

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“Every couple of weeks, we’d go back to the border fort and I’d see Nubs every time,” says Dennis. “Each time, he followed us around a little more.” And every time the men rumbled away in their Humvees, Nubs would run after them. “We’re going forty miles an hour and he’d be right next to the Humvee,” says Dennis. “He’s a crazy fast dog. Eventually, he’d wear out, fall behind and disappear in the dust.”

On one trip to the border fort in December 2007, Dennis found Nubs was badly wounded in his left side where he’d been stabbed with a screwdriver. “The wound was infected and full of pus,” Dennis recalls. “We pulled out our battle kits and poured antiseptic on his wound and force fed him some antibiotics wrapped in peanut butter.” That night, Nubs was in so much pain that he refused food and water and slept standing up because he couldn’t lay down. The next morning, Nubs seemed better. Dennis and his team left again, but he thought about Nubs the entire time, hoping the dog was still alive.

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Two weeks later, when Dennis and his team returned, he found Nubs alive and well. “I had patched him up and that seemed to be a turning point in how he viewed me,” says Dennis. This time, when Dennis and his team left the fort, Nubs followed. Though the dog lost sight of the Humvees, he never gave up. For two days, Nubs endured freezing temperatures and packs of wild dogs and wolves, eventually finding his way to Dennis at a camp an incredible 70 miles south near the Jordanian border.

“There he was, all beaten and chewed up,” says Dennis. “I knew immediately that Nubs had crossed through several dog territories and fought and ran, and fought and ran,” says Dennis. The dog jumped on Dennis, licking his face. Most of the 80 men at the camp welcomed Nubs, even building him a doghouse. But a couple of soldiers complained, leading Dennis’ superiors to order him to get rid of the dog. With his hand forced, Dennis decided that the only thing to do was bring Nubs to America. He began coordinating Nubs’ rescue effort. Friends and family in the States helped, raising the $5,000 it would cost to transport Nubs overseas.

Finally, it was all arranged. Nubs was handed over to volunteers in Jordan, who looked after the dog and sent him onto to Chicago, then San Diego, where Dennis’ friends waited to pick him up. Nubs lived with Dennis’ friends and began getting trained by local dog trainer Graham Bloem of the Snug Pet Resort. “I focused on basic obedience and socializing him with dogs, people and the environment,” says Bloem.

A month later, Dennis finished his deployment in Iraq and returned home to San Diego, where he immediately boarded a bus to Camp Pendleton to be reunited with Nubs. “I was worried he wouldn’t remember me,” says Dennis. But he needn’t have worried. “Nubs went crazy,” recalls Dennis. “He was jumping up on me, licking my head.”

Was it destiny that Dennis met Nubs and brought him to America? “I don’t know about that,” says Dennis. “It’s been a strange phenomenon. It’s been a blessing. I get drawings mailed to me that children have drawn of Nubs with his ears cut off. It makes me laugh.”

Risky Mistakes Pet Owners Make

Letting Your Dog Walk You

A poorly trained dog can pull you over while you’re out for a stroll. According to the CDC, tens of thousands of people end up in the ER every year because of pet-related falls. Many of these falls occur during walks — either when a person trips over a dog or is pulled or pushed by one. Experts say obedience training is the best way to make sure your pooch doesn’t take you down during the morning walk.

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Overlooking Ticks

After a walk in the woods, you check yourself for ticks, right? Don’t forget about your dog. Tick bites put your dog at risk for Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and a handful of other diseases. They can also cause serious illnesses in cats. If your pet has infected ticks, this puts the rest of the family at risk. If you find a tick, remove it carefully with tweezers. And ask the vet about anti-tick medicine.

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Ignoring Ringworm

If your pet has a round bald patch, ringworm could be to blame. Leave this fungus untreated, and you’re putting your family at risk. People can get ringworm from dogs or cats by touching their skin or fur. Ringworm causes a reddish, ring-shaped rash on the skin or bald spots if it infects the scalp. If you suspect your pet has ringworm, see your vet promptly.

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Keeping the Food Bowl Full

With the best intentions, some people keep their pets’ food bowls full at all times. This is one of the most common mistakes pet owners make. The problem is that cats and dogs often eat more than they need. If food is constantly available, they will take in too many calories and put on too much weight. To avoid this, follow the suggestions on the pet food label or ask your vet for guidance.

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Forcing Cats to Be Vegetarian

Vegetarian people sometimes want their pets to share their lifestyle. The trouble is cats are “obligate carnivores.” This means they must eat meat to survive. They depend on nutrients, such as the amino acid taurine, that are only found in animal tissue. Dogs may be able to handle a well-balanced vegetarian diet, but check with your vet first.

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Providing Too Little Exercise

Just like people, pets need exercise to stay healthy. Couch potato pets are prone to obesity, which raises their risk of diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. The right amount of exercise for a dog depends on the breed and size, but vets recommend at least a half-hour each day. Taking brisk walks with your dog can help you get in shape, too.

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Misreading Body Language

Sure, you love your dog. But do you really understand him? If you think a wagging tail is always a good sign, you could be in for a nasty surprise. When a dog wants to threaten someone, he may hold his tail high and wave it stiffly back and forth. Mistake this warning for a sign of playfulness and you could get bitten. To avoid misunderstandings, learn about your pet’s body language.

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Providing Too Little Attention

Just like children, your pets will get bored if you don’t play with them. And boredom can lead to troublesome behaviors like chewing, digging, barking and whining. Bored cats may resort to scratching and excessive meowing. Fight boredom by hiding treats for your pets to find around the house. Provide toys your cat can chase. Teach dogs to play fetch, tug-of-war, or hide-and-seek.

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Making Your Cats Share a Litter Box

Multiple cats plus one litter box equals a formula for elimination problems. That’s a nice way of saying your cat may choose to pee or poop on the floor. Cats can be very picky about their litter box. If it’s dirty or smells like other cats, they may not use it. Experts recommend having one litter box for every cat in your home, plus one extra. It may be helpful to space out their boxes around the home.

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Not Socializing Young Pets

It’s important to provide puppies and kittens with positive human interaction during their first seven weeks of life. This includes handling and play that fosters trust in people. Reputable breeders will begin this interaction, and you can continue the process when you bring your pet home. To develop a strong bond, play with your new puppy or kitten every day.

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Leaving Young Kids Unsupervised

Most children adore animals, but sometimes their enthusiasm can lead to someone getting hurt. Young kids may play too rough, pushing a dog or cat to strike out in self-defense. Be sure to supervise play time when a new pet joins the family. Set rules for how children should treat the pet and teach them to recognize the signs that a dog or cat wants to be left alone.

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Giving Milk to Cats

The idea that cats thrive on milk is a myth. In fact, the opposite is often true. Most cats are lactose intolerant, meaning that they can’t properly digest the sugars in milk. This can result in diarrhea and vomiting. While some cats can digest milk with no problems, they don’t need it. So most vets recommend skipping the milk.

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Feeding Cats Only Dry Food

Cats have a low thirst drive by nature, so they may not drink enough to stay well hydrated. Feeding them only dry food compounds the problem and can put them at risk for urinary tract disorders. To promote a healthy bladder, some vets recommend canned foods, which are about 78 percent water. A fluid-rich diet is particularly important for cats with a history of urinary tract problems.