By Tony Perry For The Los Angeles Times
When Pfc. Colton Rusk was shot in Afghanistan by a Taliban sniper, a Marine dog named Eli immediately ran to him, guarding the downed Marine against further attack.
Even Marines who rushed to Rusk’s side were initially kept at bay by the snarling Labrador, who had been Rusk’s inseparable companion through training and then deployment to a dangerous place called the Sangin Valley.
Rusk, 20, a machine gunner and dog handler from the Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, died from his wounds that brutal day in early December.
Out of gratitude for Eli’s loyalty to their son, Darrell and Kathy Rusk, with the support of Marine brass, arranged to adopt Eli and take him to their ranch in Orange Grove, Texas, near Corpus Christi.
Such adoptions are unusual, though not unprecedented. Last week, Rusk’s family took possession of Eli at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, a major training site for military dogs.