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Just before Memorial Day, a Marine had an extra-special reunion with the dog he worked with in Afghanistan.
Sgt. Ross Gundlach, 25, served in Afghanistan alongside Casey, a yellow Labrador Retriever. Gundlach became very close with his companion, and promised her “if we made it out alive, I'd do whatever it took to find her," reported the Associated Press.
So, when Gundlach left active duty to pursue classes at the University of Wisconsin, he began a campaign to adopt the 4-year-old dog.
When he tracked her down, he found that Casey had completed her military service and was working in explosive detection at the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Gundlach, who even bears a tattoo of the dog on his forearm and credits her with saving his life, contacted State Fire Marshal Director Ray Reynolds to try to explain his connection to Casey and ask to have her back.
But while Gundlach thought he was still petitioning to bring his dog home, Reynolds was working behind the scenes to arrange a surprise reunion.
He got in touch with the Iowa Elk’s Association, which donated $8,500 to buy another explosives dog for the state. Then he asked Gundlach to come to the Iowa statehouse to try to convince a committee to give Casey to him.
It turned out, though, that it was all a rouse. Shortly after Gundlach and his parents arrived at an Armed Services Day celebration in the Capitol rotunda, they brought Casey out to be reunited with her pal while hundreds of guests looked on.
The dog licked Gundlach’s face as he cried tears of joy, her tag wagging wildly.
"It was a total surprise," the Marine said. "I owe her. I'll just try to give her the best life I can."
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