As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. One U.S. Marine and his service dog reflected this adage beautifully. Three years apart did not diminish their bond. And when they were reunited, the pair showed just how much love grew between them while they worked together. This is the story of two American heroes.
Partners Protecting the United States
Marine Sgt. Jacob Varela and Atilla the German Sheppard’s story started in 2014. The Marines paired the two together for three years in a special operations unit. Atilla was a trained combat tracking dog. For those three years, he worked side-by-side with Sgt. Varela.
“We were together for everything, everywhere I went out in the field. If I was drinking water, he was drinking water. If I was eating, he was eating. He’s an actual teammate,” Sgt. Varela explained.
After three years of working together every day, their relationship ended in July 2017. Both moved on to new assignments, but they did not forget each other. Little did they know back then that they would be reunited one day.
An Impenetrable Bond
After all his time doing demanding work for the Marines, it was finally time for the nine-year-old Atilla to retire. When Sgt. Varela learned Atilla could no longer work, he wanted to bring his old partner home with him.
Sgt. Varela connected with a group called Mission K-9 Rescue. They help bring veterans and their retired service animals together when they are finished working overseas.
In late June, the pair reunited in Chicago. The video below shows their emotional reunion. Atilla dashes across the airport into Sgt. Varela’s waiting arms.
Kristen Maurer of Mission K-9 Rescue explained why their organization does what it does.
“These dogs serve with these guys. They spend 24/7 training together, putting their lives on the line together. So, there is a bond we can’t understand,” she said.
Now, the two will spend their time out of the military together. Sgt. Varela is no longer active. He spends his time earning a college degree. He says Atilla earned a relaxing retirement, and he plans to give him just that.
Dogs are more than just a human’s best friend. They form deep bonds with us that are long lasting. Not even years apart could keep Atilla from remembering his handler. We love this story! Watch the beautiful reunion below.
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