A Marine has raised thousands of dollars in less than 10 days to reunite with a stray dog he befriended while serving in Afghanistan.
Shaun Duling’s heartwarming tale touched so many hearts that – less than two weeks after sharing his story on a charity website – he has raised more than the $4,000 needed to fly his four-legged friend to join him in the US.
Shaun says: “Xena was very fit and obviously well-fed, while Bolt was skinny, malnourished and very standoffish towards humans.”
But Bolt’s attitude changed after the Marine started feeding and caring for him. Shaun says: “Before you knew it Bolt was putting on some weight, running around…and just looking like a normal happy dog again.”
He even built Bolt a little home using foam pads and a blanket to keep him warm and in the winter the little dog slept inside Shaun’s tent.
The two were initially separated a few months later when all dogs were ordered off the base. Bolt – along with the other strays – was dropped off in a village 12.4 miles away.
But at 2:30 the following morning, the devoted pup surprised his friend by joining him as he walked to work. Bolt had found his way back to the base by following the convoy back home.
When the Marine recently left Afghanistan for good he could tell the separation was going to be tough on his friend. He told KCBD News: “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.
“I think he knew I was leaving, and leaving for good. He just looked sad and confused and I was just like: ‘That can’t be the last time I see him’.”
Back in the US Shaun found out about Nowzad – a charity that rescues stray and abandoned animals from Afghanistan.
On October 10 he posted his story online and has raised more than the $4,000 to have Bolt flown to join him in Virginia.
With any luck the friends will be reunited in time for Shaun’s 28th birthday next month.