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Every Pet Deserves A Good Home…

“Tails of Love”

The rocket came in fast, maybe 900 feet per second—too fast for anyone to sound the warning siren, and much too fast for all the troops of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force to take cover. It was March 21, 2007, when the 73-millimeter insurgent-launched rocket exploded inside their base in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, right next to Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee and his canine partner, Lex. Lee, a 20-year-old Mississippi native, was gravely wounded by the blast. Lex—a German shepherd trained to sniff out hidden explosives—was also injured, his brown and black fur burned, shrapnel lodged in his back and spine.

Marines on the scene watched as the bleeding Lex climbed on top of Corporal Lee to protect him from further harm. They saw Lex try to revive his master by licking his wounds. And the Marines who rushed to their comrade’s side had to peel Lex reluctantly off the young corporal so medics could try to save him. But Corporal Lee’s injuries were too severe; he died at a nearby military hospital.

A few days later, two uniformed Marines arrived at the Lee family home in Quitman, Mississippi, to deliver the news of the corporal’s death. “After the Marine Corps representative told us everything that happened,” recalls Dustin Lee’s mother, Rachel (pictured above with Lex), “my next question was—and I’ll always remember it—’What about Lex?’ ”

The Marines seemed puzzled. “We’re not sure,” they said. “We know he’s alive. Why?”

“The more we talked, the more I wanted Lex to be at Dustin’s funeral,” she says. “After hearing that Lex climbed on top of Dustin as they both bled…Lex and Dustin shared a bond, and now that bond is a blood bond. Lex was the last to see my child. I wanted him there at the funeral with me.”

Despite being shaky from his injuries, Lex, the Marine dog, made it to Corporal Dustin Lee’s funeral. He and Dustin’s younger brother, Camryn, then 13, even played together for a while (the Lees also have a daughter, Madyson). Several top Marine Corps officers attended the March 2007 service in Quitman, Mississippi, and Rachel Lee had another question for them: “I would like to know how we can adopt Lex.” Rachel didn’t want Lex to return to service—and into harm’s way.

Throughout 2007 Rachel pressed the Marines for an answer. Red tape and regulations thwarted her—as did grief. “I was in a fog,” she says of that period. “I don’t remember a whole lot. But my dad, my husband, my brothers, they were all pursuing it.”

In December 2007 the Lees’ phone rang. Rachel answered the call: Lex had been granted an early discharge. The Lees could come to Georgia and pick him up. “It took so many people trying to help,” says Dustin’s father, Jerome. “The amount of support we had was heartwarming.”

The Lees drove seven hours to the Marine Corps base at Albany, Georgia; in a ceremony there on December 21, 2007, Lex was discharged from duty and presented to Rachel and Jerome. State police from Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi provided a rotating escort the entire way home, as did motorcycle groups such as the Christian Motorcyclists Association and the Patriot Guard Riders.

When Lex arrived in Quitman, he made himself right at home. “It was amazing how Lex became part of our family on day one,” Jerome says. “Lex had that special bond with Dusty, and part of Dustin is in Lex. It’s like he knows where he is and who we are. He wants to help us cope with our grief.”

Today, Rachel says, “Lex walks with me everywhere. That’s the bond I also feel with Dustin. I look at Lex and I learn so much about working dogs, and their importance. It encourages me to go on. That’s what Dustin would have wanted. To take my hand and put it on Lex, it’s a healing experience.”

Tails of Love” By Geoff Brown, November & December 2009 – AARP Magazine

From Seeing Eye dogs to the cat who cuddles in your lap, animals are there for us in more ways than we can count. Helping us get through the day with a wag of the tail and a tilt of the head, they let us know that someone is on our side-no matter what. They also have an amazing ability to break down barriers between people; bringing families and loved ones closer, and giving strangers an excuse to strike up a conversation. In Tails of Love, each writer draws from her own unique perspective on our loyal friends-exploring the many mysterious ways they bring love into our lives.

Ten all-new stories that celebrate our animal friends, by bestselling and award-winning authors

Tails of Love

U.S. Marines Enlist ASPCA to Keep Marine Corps Pets & Families Together

marine

On October 6, a team of ASPCA animal behavior experts arrived in Beaufort, S.C., to conduct behavior assessments of more than 80 dogs living in Marine Corps housing units in the South Carolina Tri-Command area.

The visit by ASPCA behaviorists comes after these dogs became the subject of a breed ban recently instituted by Marine Corps headquarters. The policy specifically bans purebred and mixed-breed Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and wolf hybrids, as well as canines with “dominant traits of aggression” who pose a risk to people living in U.S. Marine Corps housing worldwide.

“Our goal in coming to the Parris Island base is to make sure safe dogs and their families are able to stay together,” says Dr. Emily Weiss, ASPCA Senior Director of Shelter Research & Development, “and so far, the results have been positive.”

After assessing individual canines with SAFER (the ASPCA Safety Assessment for Evaluation Rehoming)—a research-based tool that helps identify the likelihood of canine aggression—ASPCA behaviorists report that of the 85 dogs assessed to date, only two were found to have a high enough potential for aggression to have to be removed from the base. “Two others showed aggressive tendencies, but one will work with a trainer and another will be neutered,” comments Dr. Weiss. “The vast majority, however, are well-loved, well-behaved family pets.”

“Breed bans just don’t work,” continues Dr. Weiss, “These breeds of dogs have a bad rap. In most cases, they are safe, wonderful animals. We’re hoping that we can work with the Marine Corps over the next two years to show them that we should be testing the aggression level of individual dogs and not just banning these three breeds. It’s breed prejudice.”

The families of safe dogs will be given the opportunity to apply for a waiver, allowing their dog to remain on the base until 2012. “We’re very excited about the ASPCA’s assessment,” says Army Capt. Jenifer Gustafson, the Officer in Charge of the veterinary clinic on Parris Island. “This is a welcome alternative to the unpleasant possibility of pet parents being forced to give up their dogs or leave base housing.”

The ASPCA is opposed to breed bans, which target entire breeds instead of focusing on individual dogs. Aggressive canines are often the result of owners failing to provide proper training. Our organization continues to work on identifying potential aggression in individual dogs, opening up opportunities for behavior modification. Read more about alternatives to breed-specific laws.

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October 10, 2009 - Posted by | animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Just One More Pet, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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