Brian Dennis, a 36-year-old Marine major, was patrolling in Iraq's Anbar province last October when a dog showed up at one of his stops. It was gray and white, maybe a German shepherd-collie mix.
Someone had cut off its ears, so Dennis — who grew up in St. Pete Beach — named the dog Nubs.
He and his fellow Marines fed Nubs whenever they saw him on patrol. One day they found he had been bitten in the neck and stabbed. Dennis put Neosporin on the dog's wound and slept next to him through the 18-degree night.
He looked after Nubs for a couple of days, then his squad had to head back to its command post 65 miles away.
Two days later, Dennis was working on a Humvee when he looked up and saw Nubs staring at him. "He tracked us nearly 70 miles," Dennis wrote to his mother, Marsha Cargo. "I won't even address the gauntlet he had to run of dog packs, wolves and God knows what else to get here."
Dennis wanted to keep Nubs, but pets aren't allowed in war zones. He had four days to find a way to ship his dog home.
Family and friends raised $3,500 for permits and plane fare. Last week, Nubs flew to San Diego, where he'll stay with Dennis' friends until late March, when Dennis gets to come home to his new dog.
Nubs' story has been told on television; Ellen DeGeneres wants to reunite the Marine and his dog on her show.
Here are excerpts from a recent e-mail Dennis sent to his mom, a Tierra Verde Realtor.
Subject: Nubs goes to Hollywood . . .
I must admit, this has been pretty strange. Put yourself in my shoes: I take off on a 4-day field op and come back to 120 emails. I find out that I have been on CNN and ABC news and Ellen DeGeneres is emailing my mother. I've never sought out notoriety or attention (not since I was six and jumped off the lifeguard tower with my Superman costume on) and don't really like this. . . .
So, enough of my bitching about the trappings of fame. What you really want to know about is Nubs, right? Well Nubs should be arriving in Chicago around 1700 on the 20th. Capt Ron Hess' (my operations officer) dad is going to pick him up. He is going to take him home, let him rest and recover for a day and ship him out on the 21st. He already bought him a steak and some Pop-Tarts (strangely enough, Nubs absolutely loves Pop-Tarts). He should arrive in San Diego sometime on the 21st. Now keep in mind that this is all tentative . . . more soon.
It appears that once he arrives in San Diego that a caravan of media will be awaiting him and he will officially become the most famous dog since Spuds McKenzie. I only wish I could be there to see it. As far as where Nubs is going after that, it is still in a bit of flex. Good friends Chrissy and Eric have volunteered to help but there is concern that they work long hours and won't have time to hang with him during the day . . . he might escape and try to get back to Iraq. My only concern is that he is going to be freaked out for a bit because this is all new to him. . . .
I just think he is going to need some good, patient people to spend some time with him initially to get him acclimated to his new environment and teach him the life of a dog in America. He doesn't know his name very well. He's got limited time on a leash. He doesn't know any basic commands . . . he is basically well behind his peers in the world of canine education.
Finally, let me clarify that, as far as the whole Nubs rescue goes, I didn't do this by myself; my team did this; my friends did this; we did this.
I get a lot of emails asking a lot of questions; I hardly have time to write 5, let alone 120 emails so I'll answer a couple here "en mass:"
1. No, I don't think I'll write a book. I'm a Marine, not an author.
2. Sure, I suppose this would make a splendid Disney movie.
3. When I get back to the US I am going back to flying F-18s at Miramar.
4. Yes, I think Bogey and Nubs will get along fine.
5. Yes, I am single; no, I've never been married.
6. I don't know how I'm still single; my mom asks me that all the time.
7. No, I don't think Nubs is going to get me "tons of chicks."
Thanks to everyone who helped with the donations! Please don't donate anymore; I've saved up a lot of money out here, and since he is my dog now, I'll pay for the rest.
I can't wait to see everyone when I get home. If you want to meet Nubs, come on out to Cali. I'm excited to see that little guy play at the beach for the first time; he's gonna love it.
More soon . . .