Virginia Marine Shaun Duling recently returned home to the U.S. from a year-long deployment in Afghanistan with a broken heart and a worn-in dog collar that belonged to a friend he was forced to leave behind -- and that he feared he would never see again.
The collar belonged to Bolt, a stray dog that became Duling's closest companion during a long and lonely winter in Afghanistan. When Duling left the country last month to return home to Alexandria, Virginia, Duling and Bolt had become inseparable, making Duling's homecoming painfully bittersweet.
'As I was walking to the helicopter I tried to get some of the guys to hold on to him, but he broke free and he tried to jump on with me,' Duling told KCBD of Texas, a local news station.
'I think he knew I was leaving, and leaving for good,' Duling said. 'He just looked sad and confused and I was just like that can't be the last time I see him.'
Now thanks to more than $4,000 in online donations and a nonprofit that helps troops reunite with pets adopted overseas, the pair will be reunited next month.
Duling found Bolt -- or rather, Bolt found Duling -- last October when the Marine first arrived in Afghanistan, Duling said.
When Duling returned home to Alexandria, Virginia without Bolt, he couldn't get the dog off of his mind.
So he posted his story on Facebook and that's when a friend told him about Nowzad, a charity that runs a shelter for animals in Aghanistan and helps reunite people with their 'animal companions' acquired during long deployments in Afghanistan.
The charity charges $4,000 to transport an animal to its 'companion.'
Duling posted his story on the charity's website on Oct. 10 and he surpassed his $4,000 in donations on Friday.
Nowzad reportedly has Bolt in their care and will be shipping him to Duling by next month.
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