It looks like Sgt. Rex, the Marine bomb-sniffing dog, will finally be reunited with his former handler, who had launched a high-profile campaign to adopt him.
The Marine Corps said today that the German shepherd has been found to be suitable for adoption and that once the paperwork is completed Rex will be reunited with his one-time handler, former Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey.
Leavey had received high-profile support from veterans groups and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in her efforts to cut through what she saw as bureaucratic red tape she said was preventing her from adopting the dog with whom she was injured with in Iraq.
Military officials said they were just following proper safety screening procedures to ensure that a dog with aggressive tendencies was not adopted by an unsuspecting sponsor.
Today, a spokesman at the Marine base at Camp Pendleton, Calif., said those safety checks had concluded and the Marines had determined that Sgt. Rex was suitable for adoption.
"We anticipate that as early as next week that Megan and the military working dog that goes by the name of Rex will be reunited," Capt. Barry Edwards said. "We wish Rex all the best in his coming years of relaxation with Megan. "
"We salute the Air Force and the Marines for doing the right thing and allowing Rex to be with Corporal Leavey," Schumer's office said in a statement. "One canine, one human, both heroes. They should be united shortly and we're glad it's happening."
The Air Force oversees the Military Working Dog Program that provides and trains the dogs that work throughout the military services.
Leavey had campaigned to adopt Rex shortly after Marine officials at Camp Pendleton kennel determined that the 10-year-old German shepherd should be retired because a facial paralysis he had developed would interfere with his bomb-sniffing abilities.
The former Marine corporal had unsuccessfully sought to adopt Rex following a 2006 bomb blast in Iraq that severely injured both of them and brought Leavey's Marine career to an end. Leavey felt a special kinship with the dog with whom she had served together with during two combat deployment. However, her request was denied when the Marines determined that after healing from his wounds Rex could still be able to work as a military dog.
Leavey began a new adoption effort earlier this year when she found out that about his pending retirement and the enlisted the aid of Schumer and veterans groups in her home state of New York.
By today the online petition Schumer set up last week to pressure the Air Force to allow Rex's adoption had received 21,000 's signatures
"Sign the petition now if you agree with Senator Schumer that these two American heroes should be reunited with all due speed" says the petition request posted on Schumer's website.
More than 300 dogs a year are adopted by the general public after they have been deemed ready for retirement by their respective military service.
Before the dogs can be put through the adoption process the military services are required to adhere to strict screening procedures to ensure that dogs with aggressive tendencies are not made available for adoption through program. While the vast majority of the dogs are deemed adoptable, fewer than 10 a year have to be euthanized because of what is deemed to be "intractably aggressive behavior."
Air Force spokesman Gerry Proctor said Rex's case had never reached that stage and was being processed normally given the protocols involving dogs, such as Rex, that had exhibited aggressive behavior in the past.
Edwards said the timing of Leavey's reunion with Rex could happen sooner depending on the processing of paperwork she still has to provide.