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Seven years of separation have done nothing to weaken the relationship former Marine Nick Montez has with his bomb-sniffing dog named Mally. Their bond was forged on the battlefield, but back on the home-front, they’re happy to finally be family once again.

When Montez first met Mally, he had never had a dog before. It didn’t take long, however, for him to realize Mally was going to be a significant part of his life. The duo was eventually deployed to Afghanistan and were responsible for detecting IEDs. Their job was to keep fellow soldiers and local citizens safe, and with the stress of the job, they faced countless emotional and physical challenges. Through it all, their partnership, and more importantly, their friendship, continued to grow stronger.

After their tour was over, Montez and Mally traveled back to the states. The stress of deployment was behind them, but so was their partnership. Montez was unexpectedly separated from Mally, and he wasn’t sure if he would ever see her again. While he was honorably discharged from the military in 2013, Mally’s work wasn’t finished. She continued to serve her country at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. Meanwhile, Montez couldn’t get her off his mind.

For years, Montez petitioned to adopt Mally. He even had her name and military identification number tattooed on his leg. He filed paperwork and talked to military officials, but the adoption never seemed to work out. He lost hope a few times, but then he received a letter from Sen. Mike Crapo. The letter stated that after years of dedicated service to her country, Mally was ready to retire. The best part was, she was going to spend her retirement with Montez.

Montez traveled from his home near Spokane, Washington to Lackland Air Force Base to pick up his dog. When he finally laid eyes on Mally, he said the moment felt surreal. At almost nine years old, Mally has spent the majority of her life away from the handler she grew close to in Afghanistan. Montez said she didn’t recognize him right away, but once she got close enough to smell him, her tail started to wag.

That moment made all the waiting worth it. The long flight back to Spokane was stressful for Mally in her old age. Once in the car, however, things started to look up. Montez was driving home with Mally and a friend when a law enforcement motorcade showed up to escort their vehicle down the Lewiston Grade and over the Clearwater River Memorial Bridge. Lining the side of the road were dozens of people waving American flags, hoisting signs, and cheering Mally’s name. The local residents showed up to honor the two veterans—one human and the other canine—and to welcome Mally to her new hometown.

Montez and Mally are now at home adjusting to their new life. Mally is learning she’s no longer on the job, and her new family is fully prepared to make her golden years as wonderful as she is. She served her country with honor and bravery, and according to Montez, her retirement will be full of love and belly rubs.

h/t:  KREM

Featured image screenshot via KREM

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