The little dog greeted a visitor Friday by running up carrying a red rubber toy and practically begging the stranger for a game of catch.
When the man tossed the toy down a hallway at Jessie Brothers' home in Lexington, Nubbin raced to grab it and ran back again, eager for more fun.
Nubbin, Brothers' frisky Jack Russell terrier, had been in danger of losing his badly broken left hind leg only a few weeks ago. Now, he's a blur of motion and energy. The cast is gone from his repaired leg. He's putting some weight on the leg, although he adopts a three-legged gait much of the time.
But if that's slowing Nubbin down any, it's not apparent.
"He'll chase a rubber ball all day long if you stay with him," Brothers said. "He's happy; he's put on some weight. He's doing good."
Nubbin has been in the news since shortly after breaking his leg while chasing a groundhog behind Brothers' home in late November.
Brothers, a retired laborer, lacked money for complicated surgery to repair Nubbin's leg. He feared that he might lose his little friend, until some Lexington firefighters put up money for the operation. Many area residents who read about their story also sent donations to help.
Nubbin's good luck led to a dramatic change in Brothers' life.
Soon after the Herald-Leader ran a story about the two in early December, Jessie Kennard, 34, of Oklahoma, saw the report online and recognized Brothers as the father he hadn't seen since early childhood. Kennard drove to Lexington with his wife a few days later to reunite with Brothers.
Looking back, Brothers says it's all still hard to believe.
"I'm blessed because I got to see my son," he said Friday.
Nubbin's injury ultimately proved to be so serious that veterinarians had to perform three operations, fearing for a while that they might have to amputate his leg.
But in a last-ditch effort in mid-January, they surgically installed a metal pin and plate to help support the leg, and they added synthetic graft material to encourage new bone growth. It apparently has worked.
Dr. Barry Hays, the veterinarian who has been in charge of Nubbin's case, said the little dog might finally get a clean bill of health after one more checkup to make sure his surgical wounds are healing properly.
"I want to see him one more time, but it's a good sign that the leg isn't really bothering him," Hays said Friday. "That leg is a little shorter than the other one now, and all the hardware that's inside the leg will cause him some difficulty as far as running and jumping. But it should be as strong, if not stronger, than the other leg."
Nubbin was lucky.
"It was a touch-and-go situation," Hays said. "Things could easily have gone another way, because we couldn't keep him still enough for the break to heal."
The turnaround has been a relief for Brothers, 65, who calls Nubbin his "only friend." Brothers, who lives alone, went into a state of near-collapse when his dog was hurt.
"I would rather that they'd take my leg off than for him to lose his," he said Friday. "The doctor has done a wonderful job taking care of him, and has done all that he could do. I thank the Lord for him."
Brothers said he's still concerned about the possibility of losing the house he rents because of a legal dispute between his landlord and some creditors. But he's breathing more easily about his dog.
Now, when Brothers takes Nubbin for short walks around his Whitney Avenue neighborhood, people sometimes stop him and tell him they've read about him and his dog. Brothers says he isn't comfortable about becoming something of a celebrity.
"It wasn't because I wanted it to happen," he said Friday. "But a lot of people have bent over backwards to help me, and I appreciate all that they've done."
Brothers held Nubbin in his lap.
"It's meant a lot to me," he said, "and to him."
Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.