Private Colton W. Rusk, a member of the Marine Corps, was killed in action while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. His December 6, 2010 death not only left his family devastated but also left his military canine friend, Eli, alone in the world. Rusk’s family eventually got to meet Eli and decided to make him a permanent member of the family.
The 2011 meeting was led by Staff Sgt. Jessy Eslick, who introduced the faithful, four-year-old dog to the grieving family during an event called a “leashing ceremony.” The room was hushed as Rusk’s parents and siblings petted and hugged the black Labrador Retriever. Rusk’s mother, Kathy, said that it seemed like Eli brought a part of her son back to her. Rusk often shared stories about the dog that was at his side day and night.
In the final, fatal battle, Eli reportedly stayed close to Rusk and climbed on top of his body to protect him, according to other soldiers who were present during the incident.
Military officials have stated that at the time of the adoption, it was only the third time a military trained dog was adopted either by its handler or the family of its handler.
Kathy Rusk said she knew that her son had passed his love on to Eli, which is why Eli was such a good dog and deserved to be with the family.