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Target 8: Marine promises to adopt dog that helped him survive war

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) - The plan was for former Pinellas County Marine Nathan Naumann to adopt the dog he went to war with.

For over five years, Nathan, now a Pinellas Park police officer, tried to reunite with "Jazzy", the bomb sniffing black lab he worked with and loved while in Afghanistan.

He was Jazzy's first handler, which according to the Marines, means he had the first option to adopt her.

They reunited for a shirt visit at a Philadelphia airport last week.

"She looked happy, she looked healthy, she recognized me," said Nathan.  "We sat on the floor and she laid in my lap and it was great," he added.

The duo was paired in 2011 and trained together in North Carolina.  Then were deployed to war torn Afghanistan.

"There's no doubt in my mind that we were safe on patrol from the I.E.D. (improvised Explosive Device) threat," remembered Nathan.

Together they hunted Taliban in the Helmand province, where Americans have encountered fierce fighting and sustained significant casualties.  Jazzy was always out in front sniffing for bombs, looking for dangers.

"She would hint at something and I would just change the direction of our patrol," explained Nathan.

Jazzy relied on Nathan, at times napping in his lap.

"My backpack that I would carry on patrol was filled with extra water for her," he said.

And Nathan relied on her.

"She was family," he explained.

Nathan was raised around dogs.  In war these animals sniff for explosives, the enemy, missing soldiers.  They save lives.  The bonds they forge with their handlers under life threatening conditions only intensifies.

"That bond is amplified times ten, based on the experience.  It's unlike anything I've ever felt as far as pets.  You consider them family.  There's no doubt in my mind she is family.  It was a different bond," he remembered.

Upon returning home, the Marines stationed Nathan in California.  Jazzy was redeployed to Afghanistan—she was good at what she did.

"I made her a promise when we were in Afghanistan, one that I would see her again, that I would try to do what's right by her, adopt her, get her home."

Nathan remembers the moment they took Jazzy.  It happened almost as soon as he got off the plane.

"It was rough.  It was, you know, coming home from deployment.  It's not like I had a lot of family there at the parade deck so, it was a lonely walk back to the barracks," he said.

For five years he's written, called, done everything he could let the Marines know he wants Jazzy.

Then he learned she was turned over to the T-S-A to keep airports safe.

T-S-A's policy is the dog's last handler has first option to adopt.

Former Congressman David Jolly, Congressman Charlie Crist and Beverly Young, the widow of former Congressman Bill Young worked to set up a reunion.  Nathan is incredibly grateful for their effort.

The T-S-A arranged last week's reunion and gave Nathan as much time as he wanted with Jazzy.

"She came up and put her head down wagging her tail, came into my arms and laid around, you know she gave me a kiss, we just sat there," Nathan explained.  A video a friend took, shows the two looking quite comfortable together.

"I told her I loved her, it was great to see her," he said.

The meeting was only temporary.

"They handed me her leash, from the start.  Having to hand that leash over again was emotional," Nathan said.

Nathan did get some questions answered.  He knows Jazzy's duties are far less taxing and she is working in an air conditioned environment.  He learned Jazzy now lives with her T-S-A handler and his family, and that he plans to adopt her.

Nathan knows that bond.

He also understands that the five-year dream to bring her home is fading.

"Obviously it's not the desired outcome for me," he said wiping away tears.  "But I said from the start I want to do what's best for her.  If that's up there with him and his family then I won't..."

He couldn't finish his sentence.

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