November 2009

Always faithful: a Marine and his unforgettable dog

By Major Brian Dennis
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This true story has everything a dog lover is looking for: loyalty, bravery and drama. Add a splash of patriotism and some strawberry Pop-Tarts and you’ve got yourself the feel-good picture book of the fall.

Nubs, so-named because his ears had been cut off to “make him a dog of war,” was a skinny, hungry dog with no owner when Major Brian Dennis discovered him one fall morning in Iraq. In short order, Marine and canine were inseparable. While on the base, Nubs and Brian walked guard duty together, and Brian gave Nubs love, food and many belly rubs. Whenever Brian had to leave the base, Nubs would chase his Humvee until he couldn’t run anymore. Time after time, Brian would leave and Nubs would follow, running until his body gave out.

Once, with a burst of determination, Nubs followed Brian 70 miles in the snow, from the border of Syria to the border of Jordan. One would think such dedication would earn Nubs a place by Major Dennis’ side forever, but there was one big problem. It was against the rules for a Marine to have a dog. They were reported to superiors and Brian was given four days to ‘get rid of the dog, or else.’ Stateside financial support saved Nubs and he was quickly shipped to San Diego, where he was met by Brian’s friends who cared for him during the last months of Brian’s tour of duty.

Not only is this an inspiring dog story, Nubs is a perfect book for children who want to learn a little more about life in a war zone. There is no political agenda here, only the story of a soldier doing his job with a loving dog at his heels. Photographs are presented scrapbook style and, though many readers already know the outcome, the authors build the suspense and emotion to the heartwarming ending. I imagine more than a few happy tears will be shed by dog-loving children and adults as they turn the final pages.

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher in Nashville.

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