Soldier Shaun Duling awaits arrival of dog from Afghanistan
Growing up, Shaun Duling always had dogs.
So it's no surprise that when he arrived in Afghanistan, he knew there was something special about Bolt.
The lab-shepherd mix is in quarantine and is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. in a couple weeks, after Duling and an Afghani rescue organization raised enough funds to get Bolt ready for his trip around the world.
Back in October when Duling was driven to the base, Bolt and his sister, Xena, ran along the side of the car.
"We used to joke around...calling it our PSD...our personal security detail,” Duling said from his home in Alexandria.
He recalled Xena being the favorite around the base. Bolt not so much.
The lab-shepherd mix wasn't trusting and a little timid at first.
Of course that changed when Duling started feeding and looking after the young dog.
"When I'd go out on runs, he'd be right there next to me. Every morning, he'd walk to the office with me. I think once he established that trust, he was almost inseparable,” Duling said.
The bond was built, except Duling knew they would have to separate when he returned home to Virginia.
To make things worse, all dogs on the base were ordered removed and dropped off at a nearby town.
But Bolt wasn’t about to give up on his owner and to the surprised of other Marines, Bolt started following.
"When they started coming back, that's when they realized Bolt was running behind the convoy the entire way,” Duling said.
That's when Duling knew Bolt had to come back to the States with him.
It’s what urged Duling to find an agency which rescues abandoned animals in Afghanistan.
Nowzad Dogs helped Duling with Bolt. After posting about Bolt's plight on the internet, the funds were raised to make sure Bolt was healthy and ready to make the trek around the world.
"It's an awesome story. It almost sounds like something out of a movie,” Duling said.
He remembers when he had to leave Afghanistan, Bolt would leave his side and even dashed after him when he boarded a helicopter.
"Can't wait to see him…it broke my heart when they took him away," Duling said.
It’s only been a couple weeks since Duling returned from his contract work in Afghanistan.
He doesn't have much furniture around the home his grandmother once owned.
It feels especially empty because Bolt won't join him for another two weeks.
Duling is scared if he buys anything for his companion, he’ll jinx the process and Bolt will never arrive.
But if you believe in irony, there may literally be a sign Bolt will soon come to his new home.
Outside Duling’s front yard, there is a real estate sign which only reads, “Coming Soon.”