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JoAnna Lou
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Ex-Marine Reunited with His Pup
Brad O'Keefe finds the dog that saved his life in Afghanistan
Last week, ex-Marine Brad O'Keefe was reunited with Earl, the Black Labrador that saved his life in Afghanistan. Brad and Earl had worked together for two years, detecting IED bombs, but hadn't seen each other since they were both injured in 2010. The pair was crossing a bridge with a U.S. army unit when Earl detected an explosive device. A resurgent ended up detonating the device before they could completely escape, but the warning ultimately saved Brad's life and the lives of the 13 other men.
 
Earl ran the five miles back to base and waited next to Brad's gear. Brad never returned, requiring seven surgeries to recover.  He was later awarded the Purple Heart, but Brad always wondered what happened to Earl.
 
In May, Brad's sister, Rachel, decided to make it her mission to track down the courageous pup through a Facebook page called Bring MMD Earl Home. Within days Rachel found out that Earl had been transferred to the Rhode Island State Police after the military downsized its K-9 corps.  Earl had been training with his new handler, State Trooper Damien Maddox, and even worked the Boston marathon bombing.  
 
The decision to relinquish Earl was left up to Trooper Maddox who agreed without hesitation.  However I'm sure it was not easy for him. In the video clip of Trooper Maddox and Earl working together, and the subsequent reunion with Brad, you can see that they developed a strong bond even in their short time together.
 
Brad is currently working as a machinist in Rochester, N.Y., coping with his injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. There is no doubt that Earl will provide the type of healing only a dog can give—especially one who truly understands the trauma that happened that day in Afghanistan. Now that both Brad and Earl are retired from the Marines, they can play fetch, take walks, and really enjoy the time they have together.
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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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