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Fallen Marine's Parents Adopt Son's Bomb Dog

Pfc. Colton Rusk with bomb sniffing dog Eli.

Our heart goes out to Pfc. Colton Rusk and his family. They are doing a great thing by taking in Eli.

— Kenn

By MARK COLLETTE For Scripps Howard News Service

ORANGE GROVE, Texas – When Pfc. Colton Rusk was shot by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, his war dog, Eli, crawled atop the Marine to protect him.

The young Marine died from that Dec. 5 attack, but the black Labrador is soon to have a new home with the family of his fallen comrade.

Later this week, Rusk’s mother, Kathy Rusk, and other relatives will attend an unofficial ceremony at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where Eli will be entrusted to their care.

Rusk, 20, was a machine-gunner and Eli’s handler. Eli, trained to identify explosives, was part of the Military Working Dog program based at Lackland. Dogs trained to detect improvised bombs have discovered hundreds of thousands of pounds of explosives and weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rusk’s mother, Kathy Rusk, said the family isn’t ready to talk about Eli’s homecoming and wants to keep the attention and distractions to a minimum because the family isn’t sure how the dog will react to his new environment.

But family members have said that because of Rusk’s love and pride in Eli, his parents consider the dog a member of the family.

Eli even shared Rusk’s cot when sleeping, said Yvonne Rusk, Colton’s aunt.

“They do get attached,” said Lt. Josh Diddams, a Marine Corps public affairs officer. “A lot of times these dogs and handlers will be best friends during their deployment. It can be hard for the Marines because they may only do one tour as a dog handler.”

Military working dogs aren’t always discharged from service soon after the death of a handler, said Gerry Proctor, public affairs officer for the Air Force 37th Training Wing at Lackland. Dogs may be transferred to train with other handlers or units as long as they are fit for service.

In Eli’s case, the commander of Rusk’s unit, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, recommended the dog for retirement and adoption at the family’s request, Proctor said.

Diddams said it’s difficult to quantify how many lives the dogs have saved because soldiers often simply avoid areas where the dogs alert.

“Marines love them,” he said. “They’re amazing at what they do.”

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Theresa
Theresa
10 years ago

I found myself tearing up when I read this amazing story of love between a man and his loyal companion.
Hope Colton rest in peace knowing that his best friend found his eternal home with his beloved family.

Markthomasll
Markthomasll
10 years ago

Great great news for Eli and the Rusk family!
God bless our soldiers !!
They are heros !!!

Sue
Sue
10 years ago

Out of something tragic, comes a new beginning. Colton would be proud. Honour our soldiers and their partners. They put it all out there to keep us safe!

Lyman Susan
Lyman Susan
10 years ago

Love of a dog is carried in the heart of the owner…I think the family having the dog is like having a part of their son..the dog can sense the connections and I’m sure THE DOG’S MAGICAL powers are helping them heal with their grief. Susan Lyman, RN – Minneapolis VA Medical Center

Cjustpeachie
Cjustpeachie
10 years ago

I’M SURE ELI WILL BE A BLESSING TO COLTON’S FAMILY AND GIVE THEM THE FEELING THAT PART OF THEIR SON IS STILL WITH THEM. MAY GOD BLESS THEM ALL.

getfitgrl
10 years ago

With 3-4 million dogs dying in shelters across the US each year, it is good to know one dog’s life will be saved after his hero and ours fell in the line of duty. RIP

Veryredrose25
Veryredrose25
10 years ago

i did cry when i read this story so sad for the fallem marine, but that dogeli is a hero because even tho he didnt save the amrines life he at least tried. also its good to know that dog will have a family and that the family will be able to have something from their som now that he is gone. sad story with good ending for dog anway.

Diana Cardenas
10 years ago

Wow, My dear condolences to Colton, and I am so happy the Eli gets to go with his family, his best friend’s family. See how much greatness can come from these 4 legged friends :). *Tear*

Diana Cardenas
10 years ago

Wow, My dear condolences to Colton, and I am so happy the Eli gets to go with his family, his best friend’s family. See how much greatness can come from these 4 legged friends :). *Tear*

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