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Sunday, Feb 19, 2017
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New Friends Welcome Nubs To U.S. Home

Nubs has a new home. The frozen, war-ravaged desert and ruins of Iraq are in the past for this dog. The German shepherd-border collie mix that was rescued and nursed back to health by Marine Maj. Brian Dennis and his men arrived in Chicago on Wednesday on a Royal Jordanian Airlines flight. Nubs flew out again Friday on an American Airlines jet, landing in the afternoon at San Diego's Lindbergh Field before heading to his new address. "I'm just glad he is safe and going to get to enjoy life without worrying about freezing, being abused or killed," Dennis said Friday in an e-mail to The Tampa Tribune. "He is a great dog and deserves a better life." Dennis, raised in St. Petersburg, discovered Nubs in the ruins of a fort near the Syrian border. The dog's ears had been clipped by an Iraqi, hence his name. Nubs later was stabbed in the side with a screwdriver by an Iraqi border police officer and left to die. Dennis wouldn't let that happen. He rubbed Neosporin on the wound and kept the dog warm on an 18-degree night by sleeping next to him.
Nubs recovered, but had to be left behind when Dennis and Border Transition Team 3/5/2 temporarily relocated their combat outpost 70 miles away in the al-Anbar province. Two days later, however, unit and dog were unexpectedly reunited. Nubs had tracked his friends across the freezing, barren terrain. They built a doghouse and hoped to keep Nubs, but were informed that pets can't be kept in a war zone. The Marines had four days to find him a home. An Outpouring Of Support Dennis' e-mail home launched the Save the Nubs Fund, which raised $3,500 to pay for Nubs' emigration. The two will be reunited when Dennis returns from his second tour of Iraq in late March. Dennis says he'll resume his service as an F-18 Hornet fighter pilot based at nearby Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Until then, San Diego friends Chrissy and Eric Sjoberg are keeping the dog. The reunion is expected to air on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," which is taped in Burbank, Calif. CNN and other outlets have reported Nubs' tale, and camera crews from the DeGeneres show, ABC, CBS, NBC and the Fox network greeted Nubs when he arrived at the airport luggage area at 5 p.m. He wore a Marine bandanna around his neck and wagged his tail, but didn't bark. "With cameras in his face, it was like he was totally accustomed to it," said Patty Brooks, a friend of Dennis' in San Diego. "It was almost like he realized he'd be a celebrity and was ready for it. "My first impression was that he is such a loving dog." DeGeneres' show crew unfurled a "Welcome Home Nubs" banner. Roger and Trina Hess, parents of Dennis' operations officer in Iraq, Capt. Ron Hess, took care of Nubs in Chicago. They fed him three steaks courtesy of a local restaurateur and some of the frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts the dog came to love. He had a checkup with an Egyptian veterinarian in Chicago. "Nubs had to see him because he could decipher the prior vet's report from Jordan, written in Arabic," said Brooks. Nubs got an all-clear, but had a knee problem that required medication. Graham Bloem, a certified dog trainer with West Coast K9 in Encinitas, Calif., has volunteered to help Nubs transition from the alpha male in a pack of wild desert dogs to beach dog. He will train Nubs at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society and work on his socialization at a dog park. "Socialization is what Nubs needs," Bloem said. "This isn't Lassie, but a wild dog from another part of the world. He will meet new animals and people. He will hear new sounds and a new environment." Two years ago, Bloem worked with another wild dog, also a German shepherd mix brought home from Iraq by a Marine. "Positive reinforcement is the key with wild dogs," said Bloem, adding that obedience training will lay the foundation for Dennis' handling of the dog when he returns. "I'll have strangers provide him food and affection so he can learn to trust people again." Marine's Second Rescue PETA this week awarded its Compassionate Action Award to Dennis for saving Nubs. He has a soft spot for homeless dogs. The major has Bogie, a Labrador-chow mix he rescued from a pound in 2000. "Nubs reminds me of Bogie because if you stop petting him he will paw you and nuzzle you until you continue," Dennis wrote. Bloem said that's a sign Nubs is more domesticated than he anticipated. Dennis said Nubs was aggressive when they met, but became "very submissive and docile" after he was stabbed. A kinder, gentler Nubs now lives in a kinder, gentler land.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. Reporter Steve Kornacki can be reached at (813) 731-8170 or skornacki@tampatrib.com.

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