- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
This week’s mini-post comes from afar, but I have been paying attention to the interest that’s rippled these last few days around the pending adoption of MWD Rex, who’s been a War Dog of the week once already this year.
Rex, who will celebrate his eleventh birthday next month, is no longer able to fulfill his service duties. The German shepherd is "showing symptoms of facial palsy and hip dysplasia" and, after a ten-year career, is ready for retirement. Former Marine Meagan Leavey, who was Rex’s handler for more than three years, is now vying for the chance to give him a permanent home. (While on tour in Iraq, the pair was wounded by an IED and spent a long recovery together; Leavey was awarded a Purple Heart.) The war-dog buzz picked up when, in her effort to speed up the adoption process, Leavey reached out to Senator Chuck Schumer who readily took up the cause as his own, and even launched a petition to push the process along.
But, as it happens, reports of Rex’s fate and the urgency over the "struggle" to adopt him have been somewhat exaggerated. Rex’s life doesn’t hang in the balance nor is there any evidence to suggest that the Marine Corps is unduly keeping this MWD from the comforts of a civilian life. Mike Dowling, Rex’s first handler, fully behind Leavey’s efforts to adopt Rex, took the time to clarify Rex’s situation and the practical realities of the MWD adoption process. He writes:
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….
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….
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.
Dowling, who wrote about his time with Rex in Iraq in 2004 in Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Working Dog, is doing what he can to help get Rex home with Leavey as fast as possible. At Senator Schumer’s request, he wrote a letter of support. You can read Dowling’s full breakdown and the letter in full here.
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently working on a book about military working dogs to be published by Free Press.