A Marine was reunited with his bomb-detecting dog Friday at the Rhode Island State Police barracks in Scituate. Marine and dog will join forces in retirement.
K-9 Earl has served tours of duty overseas with the military and then in Boston during the aftermath of the marathon bombings. Now, his work complete, he's reunited with his pal.
Earl has been part of a K-9 unit at the Rhode Island State Police since being injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010. His handler, Lance Cpl. Bradley O'Keefe, was also seriously injured in the blast.
O'Keefe hadn't seen Earl until Friday.
"Good to have him back," O'Keefe's said.
Rachel Lawson, O'Keefe's sister, spent the past three years trying to track down Earl and reunite the dog with her brother. When she found out the dog was in Rhode Island and contacted state police, the department was happy to give the dog up so the two could be together.
"They were combat buddies and he went home without seeing his closest friend, and he deserves better than that," Lawson said.
"The Rhode Island State Police were 100 percent on board with it. They didn't give us any trouble. They didn't want anything in return. I'm very grateful," O'Keefe said.
And grateful that the unassuming black lab saved at least 13 lives in Afghanistan.
"He does something with his tail when he catches onto something, and I noticed that so I stopped the patrol. But by the time he was able to locate the actual position of the IED, the insurgent blew it up," O'Keefe said.
"Dogs have been huge for us oversees. They save lives," Lance Cpl. Jeff Gray said.
O'Keefe and Earl are now retired from duty. They look forward to a peaceful life together, man and man's best friend.
"We never really got much chance to play games or hang out or go for walks or anything, so we're probably going to go back to my apartment and hang out for a little while," O'Keefe said.
O'Keefe and Earl are on their way back to his hometown of Rochester, N.Y.
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