HOUSTON It looks like Bill will make it to the Ball, after all.
KHOU 11 News viewers responded in a big way when a local Marine asked for help bringing his canine companion home from Afghanistan.
In just a few days, viewers donated $11,000 to Sgt. John Staffen, a member of the Lone Star Battalion who recently returned to Texas from a year-long deployment without his dog, Bill.
Staffen only needed $3,500 to get a rescue organization to fly Bill to Texas, so the rest of the money will be donated to non-profit groups dedicated to helping other animals.
The whole story started when Staffen and his fellow Marines found Bill then a 9-day-old puppy at a gas station in Afghanistan.
Staffen said all of Bill s littermates had died, so the Marines convinced the gas station owner to let them take the pup.
We were just gonna kind of keep him and kind of try to revive him. We just didn t want him to die, said Staffen.
Taking turns during 24-hour security watch, the Marines nursed Bill back to health, and he became their unofficial mascot.
I m not gonna play the part of the tough guy here, said Staffen. I might be a Marine, but you see a cute little puppy, and you get attached to him. And everybody did, and we all played a part [in the puppy s survival].
But when it was time for Staffen and the Lone Star Battalion to return to the States, Bill couldn t make the trip.
Military regulations prohibit troops from bringing animals back home.
That s where CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan came in.
Staffen said Logan volunteered to get Bill to a shelter in Kabul, where he would stay until the Marines could raise enough money to send Bill to live with Staffen in Liberty County.
The Marines created a website called getbilltotheball.org a reference to November s Marine Corps Ball in Houston and set out to collect donations.
It didn t take long.
KHOU 11 News Kevin Reece did a story about Bill and the Marines on Monday. By Wednesday morning, we got word that the public had met and exceeded the necessary donations.
We ll keep you posted on Bill s journey to Texas ...