Megan Leavey was a Marine K9 handler whose life and battle to have her working dog, Rex, retire with her were the topic of a movie, Megan Leavey, released in 2017.
Megan and Rex
Leavey made a special and powerful connection with the military working dog who saved her own and thousands of other lives in Iraq. While respecting that the K9 is a warrior in his own right, Leavey knew her dog, Rex, wouldn’t understand why she left without him.
She grew up with dogs, a total animal lover. “I had no idea there even was a K9 program until I was in military police school,” Leavey said. “I had to finish at the top of my class and be selected to go to K9 school.”
“I was new marine when I got handed this dog. Rex had an attitude. When we are first assigned a dog, we spend two weeks just rapport training. You are the only one feeding the dog, brushing him. You go for walks and play. You work up to getting to know mannerisms. When they see you, they associate that with a positive. The basic training is already done, becoming a team is what’s important.”
Leavey and Rex Survive an IED
Leavey and Rex were shipped to Iraq twice. On the last deployment, they survived an IED explosion on the dusty roads of Ramadi and spent their recuperation and physical therapy recovery together.
Megan Leavey @ Eukanuba
“Rex was a one person dog,” Leavey said. “Nobody else could have done that (physical therapy) work.”
A dual purpose dog in military parlance, Rex was both a patrol and explosives detection dog. “Rex was super aggressive,” Leavey said. “Right in his vet record it said in giant letters not adoptable… There’s a process to adopt military working dogs and I understood that.”
Parting Ways with Rex
While Leavey’s military contract was up after her recovery, Rex’s wasn’t. He continued working stateside after she returned home to New York state.
“He went through 12 different handlers after me,” Leavey said. “I had such guilt leaving him behind. You can’t explain to a dog that these are the rules. It haunted me every day.”
Leavey kept in touch with her friends in the K9 unit for years. “They weren’t his biggest fans,” she noted wryly. “Nobody bonded with him like I did. I kept hoping every day they’d change his classification.”
The Battle to Save Rex
“I finally got a call from a marine at the K9 section. Rex, now 11 years old, was going to be retired. My friend told me, ‘If you’re going to try and adopt him, get on it.’ Any day Rex could be put down. He was old and sick.”
Leavey went straight to her Veteran’s representative, who took her story to New York Senator Chuck Schumer. The Senator released her plea to the press. The publicity greased the wheels of government and helped Leavey cut through the red tape to have Rex retired with her.
“When he arrived, I just wanted to spend time with him,” Leavey said. “Getting him back really helped me close wounds, work on myself, be at peace with a lot of things.”
For a tough, working K9, Rex settled right in to civilian life with Leavey.
“From the moment I brought him home, he jumped right on the couch. He left the cats alone after getting swatted on the nose. He got along with my other working dog. He got to swim in a pool. See snow. Sleep on a bed and have all the toys and treats he wanted. I had a great eight months with him. I was so grateful that the process was expedited. If I waited any longer, we wouldn’t have had that time.”
Listen Today on Pure Dog Talk
Listen to more of Laura and Megan, including Megan’s observations about her first dog show, on today’s podcast.