Retired Military Dog Reunited With Former Marine Trainer In Chicago

Steve Miller
June 25, 2019 - 6:28 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- After being separated for two years, a military working dog is back his U.S. Marine Canine handler. 

The reunion took place Tuesday afternoon at Midway Airport.

Atilla the combat tracker dog arrived first, escorted to Chicago by Kristen Maurer, the president of Mission K9 Rescue.

The dog waited by baggage claim to be reunited with Jacob Varela, his U.S. Marine Canine Handler.

“Getting Atilla back means the world to me.  He and I have a huge bond”, said Sgt. Varela, “ Being able to adopt him is good for my soul!”

Atilla and Sgt. Varela were a K9 team that spent three years together working stateside on special operations with United States Marine Corp Special Operation Command (MARSOC).  The last time Atilla and Sgt. Varela saw each other was in July of 2017. 

Varela saw Atilla first and made a keening sound.

"It's just a really loud high-pitched noise that we used to use to get them excited, call their attention,” he explained.

Atilla came running.

"At first I was like, well, I don't know. It's been two years,” Varela said. “The way he jumped on me like that -- he knows who I am. So, that's good."

Varela is out of the Marines, living in Albany Park. Atilla is 9 years old and retired.

"Two months ago I got the phone call, and they're like, 'Hey, he's good to go. You want to adopt him?'

"And I was like, 'Oh, yeah. I want him back.'"

But he did not know how he was going to get the dog from Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.  That is where Mission K9 Rescue stepped in.

Mission K9 Rescue is a non-profit organization that has reunited over 275 K9/handler teams, and when they heard about Atilla, they picked him up from North Carolina, drove him to their facility in Texas, and flew him to Chicago.

“It is important to honor and protect all of our military heroes; both two and four-footed,” said Kristen Maurer, president of Mission K9 Rescue, “Military working dogs have been a vital, life-saving part of our armed services and they deserve our support when they can no longer work. We’re honored to make the reunion of Sgt. Varela and MWD Atilla possible.”