Brady Rusk, 12, hugs Eli at a retirement and adoption ceremony at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The bomb-sniffing Labrador retriever was assigned to Brady’s older brother, Marine Pfc. Colton Rusk, 20, who was killed in action in Afghanistan by Taliban sniper fire Dec. 2010. The Department of Defense granted the Rusk’s permission to adopt Eli and allow him to join their family. photo courtesy of: Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF
Plastered across the top of Pfc. Colton Rusk's Facebook page are photographs of a black Labrador Retriever, named Eli, who always looks like he's smiling. Rusk was a dog handler who had enlisted in the Marines right out of high school and Eli, the four-year-old bomb-sniffing dog, was his partner. The pair was serving in Afghanistan when Rusk was hit by Taliban sniper fire on Dec. 6, 2010. Eli was the first to reach him where Rusk fell. The dog crawled on top of Rusk's body, ferociously protecting his handler "[snapping at the] other Marines who rushed to [Rusk's aide]. 'Eli bit one of them,' said Rusk's father Darrell, recalling the story told to him by other Marines." Colton Rusk did not survive the attack. He was 20 years old when he died. In all of the articles that have been published since Rusk's death -- and there are many -- this fallen handler and his war dog are always described the same way: They were best friends. Family members recount how Rusk broke protocol so that Eli could be by his side all the time, sharing his cot instead of sleeping in the kennel. Rusk's mother, Kathy, told AP that ""Every time he called home, it was always about Eli. She said it gave her comfort to know her son "wasn't alone over there." It was this bond that prompted the Rusk family to petition the military to let them adopt Eli after their son's death. And while Eli is a young canine, still at the beginning of what might have been a long career as an IED detection dog, the military saw fit to make an exception, and granted Eli special permission to retire from service. The Rusk family traveled to Lackland Air Force base on Feb. 3 to pick Eli up and bring him back to their Texas ranch where he will begin his retirement, joining the family's three other dogs in the home where Colton was once a boy. (You can watch a video of the Rusk family -- Colton's parents and his two young brothers -- reunite with Eli here.)
When a sniper’s bullet struck Pfc. Colton Rusk, the first to reach his body was his best friend Eli– a bomb-sniffing, black Labrador so loyal he snapped at other Marines who rushed to his fallen handler. Military dogs are supposed to sleep in kennels when deployed, but Rusk broke the rules and let Eli curl up with him on his cot. Other times, the dog took up the entire sleeping bag. Rusk ate ready-to-eat meals, so that’s what Eli ate instead of dog food. "Whatever is mine is his," Rusk wrote.
"Pep, The Cat-Murdering Dog" was a black Labrador Retriever admitted to Eastern State Penitentiary in 1924. Prison folklore states that Governor G.Pinchot used his executive powers to sentence Pep to Life Without Parole for killing his wife’s cat. But the Governor told a different story. He said Pep had been sent to act as a mascot for the prisoners. Pep was much loved, and lived among the inmates for about a decade. While the truth may never be known, in photographs Pep sure does look GUILTY.