NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - It's a story that's making national headlines- a New York Marine reuniting with his dog after an IED blast separated them for years. It turns out the dog has ties to Eastern Carolina.
Earl, a black lab, was born in Craven County under the care of John Weller, the owner of Weller Kennel on Zeb Road near New Bern.
"When [Earl] was was a baby, he was different, always a little guardy [sic]," Weller told NewsChannel 12.
Weller said he raised Earl until it was 2 years old, before selling the dog to the military.
Earl then worked as a bomb-sniffing dog in Afghanistan. His handler was LCpl. Brad O'Keefe. But in 2010, the two were separated when an improvised explosive device exploded. O'Keefe suffered a concussion and a shattered tibia, and was sent back to the U.S. for treatment. Earl was struck by a shrapnel and was treated as well.
For years, O'Keefe, of Brighton, N.Y., had no idea where Earl was. So the Marine's sister, Rachel, decided to search for her brother's canine companion.
The O'Keefe family finally found Earl working with police in Rhode Island. O'Keefe and the pooch were reunited on June 21 at the Rhode Island Police headquarters, where officers decided to let the Marine keep the dog.
"We're going to be spending as much time together as we can, to make up for the lost time," O'Keefe told ABC affiliate 13WHAM.
Weller said told NewsChannel 12 when he saw the reunion on the news, he could hardly believe it.
"I was sitting in a chair and I heard about this dog named Earl. I had to go get [my wife], I was so surprised," Weller said.