CHICAGO (WGN/CNN) - Two years after a U.S Marine and his tracking dog formed a lasting bond, the veterans were brought back together for the reunion to last a lifetime.
Retired Marine Sgt. Jacob Varela and 9-year-old Marine K-9 Atilla, a German shepherd and trained tracker, reunited Tuesday at Chicago’s Midway International Airport.
"The way he reacted, the way he jumped on me, he knows who I am, so that's good,” Varela said.
The two served together in a special operations unit for three years.
"We were together for everything. Everywhere I went, he was with me. When we were out in the field… he was with me. If I was drinking water, he was drinking water; if I was eating, he was eating. He becomes like your teammate,” Varela said.
Varela and Attila went their separate ways in July 2017, but when Varela learned his old buddy could no longer work due to his age, he decided to adopt the dog.
That’s when a group called Mission K-9 Rescue stepped in, doing whatever it took to bring the former partners back together.
"These dogs serve with these guys. They spend 24/7 training with them, putting their lives on the line together, so there's a bond that we can't understand,” said Kristen Maurer with Mission K-9 Rescue.
Now that the comrades in arms have been reunited, Varela says Atilla has earned a relaxing retirement.
As for Varela, he is a full-time student, currently working on a college degree.