DES MOINES, Iowa - A Marine has been reunited with the dog he served with in Afghanistan during a surprise ceremony at the Iowa Capitol.
Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach of Madison, Wis., thought he was traveling Friday to the Iowa Capitol to tell state officials why he should take ownership of the dog, which has been working for the state fire marshal's office.
Gundlach didn't realize officials already had made arrangements to get another dog for explosives detection.
State officials told Gundlach their meeting had been delayed and asked him to join in an Armed Services Day celebration in the rotunda, but during the event they brought out 4-year-old yellow lab, Casey.
When Gundlach saw Casey, he put his face into his hands and cried.
Gov. Terry Branstad officially retired Casey from active duty.
Over the weekend, the two reunited best friends settled in at home in Columbia County.
Casey may act like an average dog, but the four-year-old Yellow Lab is far from it.Marine reunites with dog from Afghanistan
A bomb dog in Afghanistan with Sgt. Gundlach for eight months, Casey never missed a one.
"A few weeks in, you just know, you know it's game time and she's going to do what she needs to do," remarked Sgt. Gundlach of his partner.
The two forged a friendship so strong, that Sgt. Gundlach finds it all a bit hard to explain.
"I don't know, no, I can't put it into words, it's pretty special," he said.
They separated when Wisconsin native Sgt. Gundlach returned home to Arlington, and Casey went to work for Iowa's fire marshal.
But Sgt. Gundlach never forgot about his four-legged friend. Far from it.
"I ended up getting a tattoo of her just because maybe I'd never see her again, she'll at least be with me, type deal," he revealed.
The thought of never seeing Casey again except as body art didn't sit well with Sgt. Gundlach.
Therefore on Friday, when Sgt. Gundlach thought he was testifying at the Des Moines Statehouse to get Casey back instead found himself at a surprise ceremony.
"Eventually I realized all these hundreds of people are here just for this, and I thought, 'Oh my lord, it's pretty overwhelming.'"
The fire marshal retired Casey, the Elks Association raised enough money to buy a new dog, and Casey finally came home.
Two old friends back together again, ready to start some new adventures together.
"She's going to be living the high life, no doubt, she'll definitely be living the Madison lifestyle, just hanging out, relaxing," said Sgt. Gundlach.
Unlike his partner, Sgt. Gundlach is far from ready to retire.
He plans to join the National Guard, go back to college, and to apply to become a Madison firefighter.
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