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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Many people form strong bonds with man’s best friend.

A New Hanover County Marine made his canine friendship while deployed in Afghanistan. Now man and dog are back together again.

While deployed in Afghanistan, David Nilson trained dogs to detect IEDs. Over time he developed a close relationship with a black lab named Sonny.

“Me and Sonny’s bond, I mean, it was awesome,” Nilson said. “I think with the first time I met him to the last time I saw him before I left Afghanistan, it was just something I felt was pretty cool.”

After four months Nilson returned home from duty, but he did not forget about his best friend overseas.

Nilson learned that Sonny would soon retire, so instead of having him put up for adoption, he decided to try keep Sonny as his family dog. Nilson filled out the necessary paperwork and hoped for the best.

“My chances were slim to none,” he said. “Luckily two and a half weeks ago I got the call, I got the e-mail saying, ‘Hey congratulations. You have to fill some paperwork out here and there, and then he will be yours to pick up whenever.'”

Now the two, along with Nilson’s four-year-old son, live happily in Ogden. And Nilson says Sonny has already confirmed there are no IEDs in his backyard.

“He walked around, and I didn’t really have to give him any commands,” Nilson said. “He did it here, too, and walked around and did a perimeter check, and he’s always searching, nose to the ground, looking for anything and everything.”

And even though Sonny is eight years old, Nilson says it’s still puppy love.

“I do love the boy, and I think he hopefully loves me,” he said.

Nilson says in Afghanistan there was always the fear something bad could happen to Sonny. Now he says sonny is safe and sound and loving his new home.

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