After being on the road since Friday, I finally have time to address all the issues regarding military working dog(mwd) Rex E168 getting adopted by his former handler Megan Leavey that has been ALL over the news recently.
As well intentioned and supportive that people are, there is NOTHING that anyone can do to speed up this process that hasn’t already been done. No petition, no phone calls, no letters, or anything else. The letter from Senator Charles Schumer to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley was more than enough to put enough pressure on getting Rex adopted out as fast as possible.
Lots of false information about the situation has been reported in the media. For example it has been reported that Rex is still in Iraq and isn’t allowed to come home, that the military wants to put him to sleep, that he is dying, and that they won’t allow Megan to adopt him and lots more false info.
Rex will be 11 years old in April 2012. He has faithfully served the Marine Corps for 10 years and has been assigned 10 handlers throughout his career. I had the honor of being his first handler and took him on his first combat tour in 2004. After being Rex’s handler for 2 and a half years I was discharged from active duty.
Megan Leavey then handled Rex for 3 and a half years taking him on two more combat deployments. They were wounded together in 2006 but fully recovered, and Megan was awarded a Purple Heart.
Rex never deployed again after his third deployment, however, he continued to work for the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton after Megan discharged from active duty.
The average military working dog serves about 7 to 8 years in the military, Rex has done 10. He officially was taken off full duty a couple months ago and began the process to be retired and get adopted out after showing symptoms of facial palsy and hip dysplasia. Rex is NOT dying, he is just slowing down.
Before an MWD gets adopted out it has to go through evaluations to ensure the safety of the public as well as the dog when it finally enters the civilian world because THESE DOGS ARE NOT TRAINED TO BE PETS. They can become great dogs to adopt however they have been trained to attack their entire lives and therefore thorough evaluations must be conducted before they get adopted.
The problem is that these evaluations can take up to several months especially when there are several other mwd’s at Camp Pendleton that are retiring and going through the same process. Rex will be 11 next month, old for a German Shepherd, and with his developing medical conditions it doesn’t help him to sit in those kennels when he should be at a loving home.
A military working dog would only be put down if it had a serious medical condition or was extremely aggressive making it unsuitable for adoption. Both are very rare occasions and the military would NEVER put down an mwd unless it had exhausted every option and effort to help the mwd. Rex is not suffering from a serious condition nor is he too aggressive so it is just a matter of time at this point. The Marine Corps wants to see Rex get adopted.
I have been in touch with Megan through all these years as we both have built extraordinary bonds with Rex and have stayed updated on his health and progress throughout his entire career. He is very dear to our hearts, in fact I wrote about my experiences with him called “Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between A Marine and His Military Working Dog.” Hopefully Megan will be able to have a book published about her experiences with him as well one day.
As much as I would love to adopt Rex, I fully support Megan’s efforts as they were wounded together and she ended up handling him longer than any other of his handlers. I told her I would support her in any way I could and all she asked of me was to give her an endorsement letter supporting her adoption of Rex which I did last week. Senator Shumer’s office asked for that endorsement letter. The below is what I sent them:
“To Whom It May Concern,
Marine Corps military working dog Rex E168 is currently retiring after having served 10 faithful years to the U.S. Military and will be eligible for adoption. Rex has been assigned 10 handlers throughout his career, completed 3 combat tours, located dozens of explosives/weapons caches, provided presidential security, and thousands of detection and patrol support hours. During Rex’s 3rd and final deployment he was wounded in combat and has since been diagnosed with mild PTSD.
Rex has experienced traumatic events and spent his entire life as a military working dog and thus requires his adoptive handler to have a great understanding of his background and training. Being Rex’s first handler, and having written a book* detailing our experiences together, I want to see Rex fully enjoy his much deserved retirement to the fullest extent. Therefore I fully endorse Megan Leavey to adopt MWD Rex E168.
Megan handled Rex for three and half years, more than any other of Rex’s other handlers, and took him on two of his three combat deployments. Megan and Rex were wounded by the same IED explosion that Megan was awarded a Purple Heart for. Rex is a combat wounded veteran and it makes sense to allow him to be adopted by another combat wounded veteran that shared in his experiences. Megan provides the added bonus of currently working as a professional dog handler and therefore has never lost touch with the mentality and temperament of a working dog. When she adopts Rex, they will reunite a bond that forged in combat years ago and provide therapy to one another for the rest of their days. There is no telling how many lives MWD Rex has saved throughout his distinguished career, but it has certainly been many. In return for his faithful and often courageous service, it is right to allow him a speedy retirement and adoption process so that he can reunite with Megan Leavey and enjoy the rest of his days in her loving home.”
Sergeant, USMC (OIF 04)
* Author of ”Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between A Marine and His Military Working Dog”
Like all retired mwd’s Rex has earned his retirement. He will get adopted out and it will be soon. You can’t fault Megan for trying to speed up the process because as handlers, we look out for and love our dogs more than anybody else. Before he finally leaves Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps once and for all I will visit him to say good bye as I currently live 2 hours from him. In fact, I have been able to visit him to check on him throughout his entire career. Megan has been in New York unable to see him as easily as I have.
He only has so much time left and he deserves to fully enjoy his final years with all the love and attention he has given to all his handlers, and the Marine Corps, throughout his life. He will have that when he is finally assigned his last duty station…Megan Leavey’s loving home.