Military Tone Deaf on Pets in a Combat Zone, Keeping Battle-Buddies Apart!

Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey with Sgt. Rex, a dog trained to detect explosives, contraband and bombs. The photo was taken in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006.

This week US News via MSNBC reports that military red tape is keeping two pals apart, a former Marine Corporal injured in battle and her working dog, soon to be retired from service. See the full story at the link below. We believe these battle-buddies should be together!


This story pulls at the heartstrings. Marine Corporal Megan Leavey and her working dog Sgt. Rex have been working together in and out of combat for three years. Deployed to Iraq twice, the pair were wounded by a roadside bomb in Ramadi, south west of Baghdad, in 2006. While Leavey was discharged from the Marines, Rex continued to work.

Now close to retirement, Rex hangs out at a kennel at Marine Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. while military brass figures out what to do with him. Leavey has twice completed the proper paperwork to receive the dog through adoption and patiently waits. The Air Force, oddly enough, is the controlling authority here, not the Marine Corp, as it is the branch which oversees the working dog program, and it is on their decision that Leavey and Rex wait.

After the incident in Ramadi, Rex recovered fully and went back to work. Now suffering from facial palsy, the services have determined that he can no longer work. The hang-up now is whether or not the working dog, who was used to sniff out explosive devices, is fit to be adopted. No one has said what happens if the dog is determined to be ‘unfit’.

This is the second story I’ve come across in recent years where red tape has prevented two pals who found each other in war, one human and one canine, from being together. While we wait for the story of Leavey and Rex to come to its hopefully happy ending, here is another that will light a smile.

In October of 2008, Ratchet the dog arrived in Minnesota to greet well wishers, media types and congressmen. The black border collie mix wasn’t a working dog injured in war, but a puppy marked for destruction when Army Sergeant Gwen Beberg rescued him from a burning trash bin. A pair of Iraqi locals had placed a burlap sack filled with unwanted puppies in a trash heap and had lit it on fire. Sgt. Beberg was on patrol that day and was horrified by what she saw. Risking harm to herself, she managed to save one of the puppies.

Ratchet Comes Home: https://www.startribune.com/local/west/32489589.html?page=1&c=y

Ratchet and Sgt. Beberg, photo by Jim Mone / Associated Press

Ratchet and her soldier bonded over the months of their deployment and Beberg told family and friends that the dog gave her great comfort from the loneliness, isolation and fear of a combat tour of duty. The dog became a mascot of her company, and Beberg did everything she could to get the dog to come home with her.  The Army wouldn’t let her, and an officer confiscated the dog before it could be flown home to Minnesota.

After clearing many hurdles, the two were reunited, with the help of a Minnesota organization called Baghdad Pups, a branch of SPCA International. A representative of Baghdad Pups went to Kuwait to pick up the dog and brought her home for her friend, at great personal expense to the organization.

I was attending the Defense Information School’s  Public Affairs Qualification Course at Ft. Meade Maryland when I first heard about Ratchet. I was given an assignment to report three news stories that would affect a notional command in theater to the Commandant of the school house. I was moved by this story, so I briefed it as the top story. The Lieutenant Colonel who took the briefing didn’t understand the relevance of this story. Then as now, military brass are tone deaf to the need for the average soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine for comfort and companionship on the battlefields far from home.

Military regulations prevent servicemembers from keeping pets in a combat zone. Leaders often don’t understand the bond between a human in a war zone and their canine pals. The bond is so strong indeed that soldiers will defy their leaders and risk military discipline to rescue their pets from the combat zone. Organizations like Baghdad Pups incur great expenses to help in these rescues.

I’m not much of a bleeding heart, and I don’t agree with much of what animal rights organizations do these days, often putting the welfare of animals over that of people. But over this issue, our interests converge. Where it is possible for the services to rescue a few animals who bond with our soldiers, it should be done, and the brass should relax the regulations to make it happen.

And those of us who have loved ones far from home, who find themselves bonding with a special canine friend while in harm’s way, should do everything we can to convince the military brass to bring our battle-buddies home with our soldiers.

For information about the Baghdad Pups program visit the SPCA website at https://www.spcai.org/.

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Jeremy Griffith

Jeremy Griffith is conservative blogger and retired officer of the United States Army Reserve. He writes for his own blog at www.AmericanMillenniumOnline.com

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One Comment

  1. I have had comments from some of you regarding how to help CPL Leavey adopt Sgt. Rex. Sen. Charles Schumer D-NY has sent a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force which oversees the Military Working Dog program and asked that the process of adoption be expedited. I would recommend everyone interested in this story write to their legislators, mention the story and ask that they support Sen. Schumer’s efforts.

    Also, Sgt. Rex has a fan page on Facebook, put up by Rex’s original handler. I recommend you visit it and like it and use social media to get the word out to your friends. The more people who are aware of this situation, the better.


    1. The following is a note I sent to The Lexus Project. I have no idea how to suggest to Megan that she contact them ans request their assistance. If you have any idea how to pass this info along I would appreciate it.

      Response from The Lexus Project:

      We need to hear from Meagan.

      Tell her to supply all paperwork regrading the dog and the denial to adopt him. After we
      Receive the info we will see if this is something we can look into when we can.


      The Lexus Project

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Mar 10, 2012, at 10:03 PM, Connie Vasquez wrote:

      To Whom It May Concern,

      We are writing on behalf of Marine Corporal Megan Leavy and her long term, fellow, four legged soldier, Rex. In December 2007, Megan began her efforts to adopt Rex who is simply being housed in a military kennel at this time and who remains in immediate danger of being put to sleep as he is considered no longer “useful”. I am outraged at this appalling lack of compassion and proper respect that I believe each and every United States soldier deserves, be they two legged or four. Many members of our family have served proudly in our military forces, as law enforcement officers, and as firemen. We know all too well the value and importance of uninhibitedly serving the public’s needs without regard for personal safety. And we have witnessed first hand the indescribable, special bond that exists among those who work side by side under such honorable and dangerous circumstances. Corporal Leavy and Rex have served proudly and they deserve to retire together in peace, honor, and dignity. Their cause tugs at our heartstrings. In a time of political turmoil and financial instability, the public needs to have their faith in justice and humanity restored and bolstered. The military has a golden opportunity to do what is right in this case and to gift the public with a heartwarming reunion that would go a long way in doing so. We implore you, please take the necessary steps to right this wrong. Thank you for your time and assistance.

      Connie Vasquez

  2. Thanks Connie for your interest in this story. It’s heart warming that people care. I would encourage you to write to your congressman and ask them to support Sen. Chuck Schumer’s efforts to expedite the adoption process. Ask them to support the bill in congress called the Canine Members of the Military Act that would set out guidelines for such adoptions in the future. And if you like, contact Mike Dowling, Rex’s first handler at his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sergeant-Rex/208526799223563

    or Megan Leavey on her FB page:https://www.facebook.com/Megalodon.Leavey

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