A U.S. soldier is hoping for her own Christmas miracle.
Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Andrea Taulton was forced to leave her best buddy behind in Kosovo, where she served her second deployment for the U.S.
Taulton found Axel, a one-year-old German shepherd, in late September 2022 — and he was in very bad shape.
Taulton told Fox News Digital that while they were driving, she and her partner spotted a pup crossing the road — and the pup was noticeably handicapped.
Taulton, who’s been active duty for seven years, hopped out of her vehicle and rushed to move the limping dog out of harm’s way.
“Kosovo is not a very good place for dogs,” she said.
“Dogs are literally everywhere, and you can tell they’re all malnourished.”
“I knew basically at that point that if I didn’t step out of the car and be a hero that this dog would not make it another minute.”
Taulton described the bond between herself and the dog as “instant.”
“We locked eyes and I swear it was like we were speaking our own language,” she said.
“He knew I was there to help him, and he somehow knew that I was going to be a good human to him.”
After she helped the dog cross the road, Taulton said the animal “showered” her “with love and kisses.”
The sergeant made the dog a bed of leaves and sticks and fed him, since it looked as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks, she said.
Taulton continued to visit Axel day after day, feeding him, taking care of him and forming an inseparable bond with him.
Axel may have been hit by a car due to an injury on his hind leg; he was also suffering from deformities on his front paws.
Since German shepherds are a rare breed in Kosovo, Taulton said they assume Axel had been bred in the area and was thrown into a cage for the first several months of his life.
This reportedly stunted the proper development of his paws.
“He walks on his wrists and his paws are just like jello,” she said.
“That’s why I named him Axel because he only had one working ‘Axel’ — his one leg.”
Taulton was ordered to leave Kosovo on Nov. 1 and was sent back to the U.S. on Nov. 18, to her hometown of Bunker Hill, West Virginia.
That meant she was forced to say goodbye to her new best friend.
“I knew that I was going to have to figure out some way to get him home,” she said.
Taulton immediately reached out to nonprofit overseas rescue organization Paws of War to get Axel to safety and, eventually, back home with her.
“Paws of War picked him up almost immediately,” she said.
While Axel is off the streets now, he’s not completely safe until he gets to America, Fox News Digital is told.
The organization is hoping to deliver Axel to his soldier before the end of the year — which Taulton said would be the “best Christmas present ever” for her.
“I don’t have children, but I can only imagine this is exactly what it feels like,” she said.
“I bonded with him so much, it’s like I left my entire heart over there,” she said.
“And not being here with him and knowing that he’s still suffering in Kosovo somewhere without my love — it’s seriously so heartbreaking.”
“I can only hope that he’ll be home by the end of the year — I’ve already situated my whole house for him if he ever gets here. So, I can only hope.”
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Paws of War founder Robert Misseri stressed the importance and urgency of getting Axel away from the dangers of Kosovo.
“Knowing we could save this dog from an uncertain death and certainly a cruel existence — we have no choice,” he said. “We have to do it.”
“For Staff Sergeant Andrea who sacrificed so much for our country and others, we all have to chip in to make this happen.”
Upon his arrival, Axel will need surgery on his back leg, though there may not be a fix for his deformities.
Paws of War, based in New York, is currently accepting donations to help ship Axel to the U.S. and cover his medical expenses at pawsofwar.networkforgood.com.