CHICAGO (WFLA/CNN) – A heartwarming reunion between two military buddies was caught on camera this week at an airport in Chicago.
Marine Sergeant Jacob Varela reunited Tuesday with the trained German Shepherd tracking dog he served with in the military.
The pair had been apart for two years. But when Atilla spotted his old friend at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, it was clear the dog hadn’t forgotten.
“Come here, come here, come here! What’s up buddy? What is up!” Varela said as Atilla jumped up to greet him. “Oh, it’s so good to have you home.”
Sgt. Varela and K9 Atilla worked together for three years in a special operations unit. It started in 2014 when Varela says he brought Atilla in from Lackland as a combat tracker.
The two quickly formed a lasting bond. But Varela got out of the Marines in 2017 and hadn’t seen Atilla since.
“We were together for everything. Everywhere I went, he was with me. When we were out in the field, out there for a month, month and a half, whatever. I mean, he was with me,” Varela said. “If I was drinking water, he was drinking water, if I was eating, he was eating. He becomes like your teammate.”
Military dogs do demanding and training work. They eventually have to retire.
When Sgt. Varela found out 9-year-old Atilla could no longer work, he decided he wanted to adopt his old buddy. That’s when a group called Mission K9 Rescue stepped in.
“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,” Kristen Maurer with the rescue said.
When Atilla spotted Varela in the airport, it was clear the reunion was well worth the wait.
“The way he reacted, the way he jumped, he knows who I am,” Sgt. Varela said. “So that’s good.”