By Kristina Davis
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
5:22 a.m. March 22, 2008
They spent months in an Iraqi war zone cementing a special bond.
SCOTT LINNETT / Union-Tribune
Marine Major Brian Dennis greets Nubs early Saturday morning at Camp Pendleton.
But after more than a month of being apart, Marine Maj. Brian Dennis began to worry if Nubs the dog would still remember him, especially in a new place like San Diego.
Their reunion early Saturday at Camp Pendleton clearly showed otherwise.
The 2-year-old old dog, named for his two nubby ears, drenched Dennis' face with doggie kisses and said hello with excited whimpers.
“You remember that, huh?” Dennis said as he rubbed the dog's head.
Dennis, an F-18 pilot stationed at Miramar Marine Corp Air Station, was among several Marines to return home from a seven-month tour in Iraq early Saturday.
Among those who also returned was a group that fell in love with seven puppies and also had them brought back to San Diego. They plan to reunite with their new dogs at 3 p.m. at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society.
Nubs, a German shepherd/border collie mix, came to San Diego a month earlier after friends, family and complete strangers raised $3,500 for the dog's trip out of Iraq.
“It's almost like 'Lassie Come Home' in Iraq,” said Dennis' mother, Marsha Cargo, who anxiously waited for the unit's arrival in the wee hours of the morning.
Dennis met Nubs in the Al Anbar Province where the dog ran wild at an Iraqi Border Fort. When Nubs was a puppy, an Iraqi sliced off most of his ears in an attempt to make the dog tough and more alert.
Another time, Nubs was stabbed with a screwdriver, and Dennis nursed him back to health.
Advertisement When Dennis' unit, the Border Transition Team, moved camp 70 miles away, Nubs somehow tracked them to their new location two days later.
It was against the rules to keep the dog in camp, and friends jumped in to bring Nubs to San Diego.
“Once he found us there, it seemed like this was supposed to have happened,” Dennis said Saturday. “After he walked all that distance, it seemed like he was supposed to end up in San Diego.”
For the past month, Eric Sjoberg, one of Dennis' Marine buddies, has been caring for Nubs along with Dennis' other dog, Bogey.
Nubs has also been learning new tricks and how to behave in a different environment with some help from a dog trainer.
“After running two years out in the desert, he's got a personality on him,” Sjoberg said.
Dennis said his first outing with Nubs will be a jog on the beach.
“It will consummate the whole journey, going from the sand of Iraq to the sand of San Diego.”