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TAMPA, Fla. (CBS Local) – A U.S. Army soldier has been reunited with a stray dog her unit rescued during their deployment to the Middle East.

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U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern is a combat photographer who was serving in Iraq in 2017. During her unit’s assignment, a scratch-covered stray and its mother started sniffing around their base. “I fell in love with her immediately,” McKithern said, via military media service DVIDS. “She came up to me immediately, probably hungry, but gentle. I think she was looking for love more than anything else.”

The photographer’s new friend was named Erby, after the nearby Iraqi city of Erbil, and nursed back to health by the international unit. Before their deployment was up in January, the nonprofit Puppy Rescue Mission helped to raise enough money to bring Erby back to the U.S. with McKithern.

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Erby was scheduled to meet her new owner a few weeks after the photographer returned to Florida, however, McKithern was ordered to redeploy for a 67-day mission. Sgt. McKithern’s unit left the same day the stray arrived in America. “It killed me that it was going to keep me away from Erby for another two months,” the soldier added, via WBTV.

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Finally, seven weeks after the Army Reservist was originally scheduled to meet her rescue dog, the two had an emotional reunion at Tampa International Airport on May 16. The airport posted a video of Erby and McKithern’s husband meeting the returning solider on Facebook.

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“I can’t believe it,” McKithern told DVIDS. “It feels like a miracle is happening.” Erby’s new family is still hoping the Army and Puppy Rescue Mission can find someone to adopt Erby’s mother.