Interview With Nubs’ Human, Major Brian Dennis

I’m excited—this is my first interview.  Here’s the news from Maj. Brian Dennis.  In addition to being back in Iraq, he’s co-written a book on Nubs entitled Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle. It’s targeted towards kids, but I bet any dog lover will be interested in this remarkable story. (Note: I’m not connected to the book in any way.) You can see more about Nubs’ story in this previous post.


Who is Nubs staying with while you’re in Iraq?

Nubs is staying with some great friends back in San Diego while I am deployed to Iraq again. He has two buddies he lives with, Bogey and Kublai. Bogey is my dog too, a pound rescue I picked up 10 years ago.

How has he adapted to a more comfortable life?

Nubs is doing well but is still adjusting to life in a home. He went from life as a wild pack dog in the Iraqi desert to a house in San Diego.

Does Nubs have any separation anxiety? Or was he unflappable after life in Iraq?

dennis2After I left for deployment again, he started acting up a bit. The problems were primarily with him acting very bossy at the house. He would sometimes growl at people who came over and even snapped at a couple people. These problems never occurred outside the house. He would run free at dog parks and have all kinds of fun… not issues. He has always been a bit territorial at the house but with me gone, he has stepped it up a bit. I think he misses me and is frustrated that I’m not there.

Sometimes I’ll make a Skype call (video conference with webcam) with my friends who are watching him. They hold him up to the screen and I say hi to him and talk to him. I’m not sure he understands what is going on when we do that… poor little guy. He hears me and see’s my face on a screen but I don’t know what is going through his head.

I’d also be interested in any new observations about the issue of troops with pets. It continued to come up after your experience and I can understand both sides of the issue. I get that there are safety concerns, but it also seems there’s great value in the comfort, morale, and entertainment animals can provide given the stress and seeming monotony y’all face. I’ve also seen comments that dogs can actually provide safety. People who aren’t there can speculate all day. I’m interested in what you think.

There are countless stories of Marines, soldiers, and sailors connecting with dogs out here; I’ve even heard some stories about cats as well. Mindset can be strange out here. There are a lot of times when you are tremendously bored. Then there are times when you are tremendously busy. A lot of people see some bad stuff out here. Some have described combat as countless hours of boredom punctuated by moments of abject terror.

People connect with animals out here for the same reasons we connect to them back home. Animal lovers love animals. And in bad situations animals (a dog in my case) can offer solace and a glimpse of home. He might do something funny to make you smile after a nasty fire-fight or if someone in your team just got hurt by an IED. This wasn’t the case with my team… we were lucky and all made it out of Iraq unscathed on our last tour. I can’t explain why, but he always just made us smile, lifted our spirits. And it makes me smile as I write this to know he is probably at the beach right now chasing Bogey and Kublai around.

What do you think of the state of dogs and cats in Iraq during this deployment? Worse, better, same?

As far as the life of dogs throughout the rest of Iraq goes, it is the same as it is in most developing countries. There are wild dogs who live much like coyotes do around the world. They hunt, they forage, and they fight for territory. That is what life was like for Nubs and his pack here. The dogs who live in the cities have it a bit rougher. The dogs continue to breed and their overpopulation is a problem.

Do you see any signs of outside help for animal welfare? Groups like World Society for Animal Welfare provide veterinary care for areas of disaster and strife.

I honestly don’t know if there is any type of organization like the ASPCA out here; I’d be shocked to find out there was.

Have you seen different attitudes towards dogs from different Iraqis? I know there is dog fighting. And that some Muslims believe dogs are “unclean”. But, I’ve wondered about farmers and people who have livestock who use dogs to guard and herd. I imagine that there are/were residents in towns who have/had dogs as pets or as guard dogs. Do you see different attitudes?

In much of the Arab culture dogs are looked down upon. Not many people keep them as pets and they are often considered a nuisance. The Bedouin who tend sheep in the desert are a bit different. They utilize dogs to help tend and keep their sheep. They are kind to them and treat them as companions. All in all though, dogs in Iraq have difficult lives compared to their American counterparts.

Do you think you might bring another dog home?

I’m definitely not looking to take another dog home. I wouldn’t have taken Nubs home if he hadn’t tracked me down. Although I really connected with him, I viewed him as a pack animal and admired his life in the wild Iraqi desert. He had been abused by humans and one of them cut his ears off. I don’t know why he would ever want to associate with humans again; but for whatever reason, he really bonded with my team in Iraq and essentially chose to be a part of a new pack.

Can you say generally where you are and what you’re doing? And do you know when you’re going home?

I am currently deployed to Iraq again in my normal job as an F/A-18 Hornet pilot. The last time I was out here I was leading an 11 man team training the Iraqis and conducting counter-insurgency operations along the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Previous to that I did another tour out here flying F/A-18s from an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Gulf. I’ll return to San Diego in late September.

If anyone wants to contact me or has questions about Nubs, they are free to contact me. A friend of a dog is a friend of mine.

Maj Brian “Heed” Dennis



15 Replies to “Interview With Nubs’ Human, Major Brian Dennis”

  1. A wonderful post; it always makes my day hearing accounts of pets and their humans bonding through incredible circumstances!

  2. thanks for the great interview! i think it’s really interesting to get a glimpse into the lives of animals in other cultures.

  3. Your story brought tears to my eyes. I have 3 dogs…all rescue animals with crazy (horrible) stories and yes, they do appreciate what you do for them. One of my dogs is half German Sheppard that floated down the ditch with his dead brothers and sisters (only days old) after a flood. I had no idea what kind of dog he would grow up to be or if he would even survive, but I suctioned his lungs and bottle fed him. He is now 3 years old and VERY loyal. Good luck with Nubs!…and I’m sure he will be forever a great loyal friend.


  4. Nubs possess some of the best characteristics that humans should have, but often don’t. In many ways, Nubs is a much more noble and spiritual being than many humans. Having been abused repeatedly by some evil humans in a most horrendous manner, it is truly a miracle that nubs still has faith in people and bonded with Maj. Dennis’ group. I have read the book, and it makes me cry each time I read it. My friends are having the same reactions too. What a noble and humane act that Maj. Dennis did to save Nubs. I hope for the rest of his life, nubs will live peacefully and happy in his new home. God knows this little guy has suffered enough in the first few years of his life.

  5. I just finished reading your book to my 5th grade gifted students. What a heart-warming story. You are my kid of guy!! Nubs has touched your life forever and I’m so happy you wrote this book to share with all of us.

  6. I’m going to buy your book and the story about “Cinnamon”. Another story of a Military pup.

  7. This dog is truly amazing! I almost got teary eyed but held my tears back. I am in the 5th grade and we read your book today. I can’t believe that a dog would ever travel over 70 miles to find you. After we read it I was told that he is dead now. I’m so sorry :`(this was an inspiring story that I will tell my parents when I get home. My dad was sent to Iraq and he is in the army National guard. he flies black hawks. Thank you for sharing your story with the world!

  8. This story is truly inspiring and Nubs is an amazing dog. I can’t believe he was stabbed with a screwdriver and still followed you for over 70 miles. My dad was sent to Iraq and he has a regular job in flying planes for American airlines and flies Black Hawks for the National guard. I am in the 5th grade and we just read your book today. I was holding back tears as we were reading the book. When we were finished one of my classmates asked if she could go see him sometime and My teacher said that he was dead now and we all yelled “NO!” :`(This is a day I will long remember and tell my other friends and family! Thank you again for sharing your story with the world. I’ll say it one more time. Your dog is amazing

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