Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach has been reunited with his long, lost love—a golden Labrador named Casey who served with him when he was a dog handler in Afghanistan.

Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach Reunited with Golden Lab, Casey. Photo Credit: Charlie Neibergall
Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach is reunited with Golden Retriever, Casey. Photo Credit: Charlie Neibergall, AP. (DOGS)

The two embarked on over 150 missions during their time together, during which Gundlach says Casey was so efficient, she never once missed an explosive and even caught three prior to discharging.

Gundlach, who has a tattoo of the four-year-old dog depicted as an angel on his right forearm, said,

“I promised her if we made it out of [there] alive, I’d do whatever it took to find her.”

Soon after the sergeant left active duty and returned to the states to go to school, he began seeking out a way to adopt Casey.

The 25-year-old discovered Casey had been sent to the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office to detect explosives, so Gundlach took action and wrote to the State Fire Marshal Director, Ray Reynolds, describing his close connection to the dog.

Reynolds, touched by the pictures and stories Gundlach had sent him, decided to arrange for a way to reunite the two.

Reynolds arranged for the Iowa Elk’s Association to donate $8,500 to buy another dog for the Fire Marshal’s office. He then duped Gundlach into coming to Des Moines to plead his case in front of a “bureaucratic oversight committee.”

Upon traveling to the court with his parents, Gundlach was ambushed with a surprise reunion at the Armed Services Day celebration where hundreds of law enforcement officers, military personnel, and civilians were waiting to surprise Gundlach.

Once Gundlach saw Casey, he broke down and began crying into his hands. The now-retired dog joyously greeted him, wagging her tail and licking his face. Gundlach’s father, Glen, said of the reunion, “It’s unbelievable…the state of Iowa, I love ‘em.” Gundlach himself said,

“It was a total surprise. I owe her. I’ll just try to give her the best life I can,” before adding, “I wouldn’t be here…any kids I ever had wouldn’t exist if Casey hadn’t been here.”

Watch the video of the heartwarming reunion below.

— Sarah Hollins, exclusive to Global Animal