Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog

Rex may not have Rin Tin Tin's star power, and Mike Dowling won't jeopardize Tim O'Brien's literary accolades, but between them they give readers a first-rate buddy story from the front lines of the Iraq war.

Joining the Marine Corps at 22, Dowling quickly aspired to qualify as a military working dog handler. He and Rex tenaciously trained to become one of the first K9 teams deployed to Iraq. Their job was to be the first to enter a road or town, searching for deadly bombs before the rest of the troops moved in, and he shares their suspenseful searches for explosives and bomb-making supplies hidden near Mahmoudiyah, their 24/7 togetherness and stories of Rex's loyalty and skills. Mike anthropomorphizes Rex, and their "conversations" become credible. "Seek seek seek," Mike whispers; Rex freezes momentarily: "Wait a second; I think I got something!"

Sergeant Rex's first-person accounts of deployment--the heat and dust of the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad (Rex required gallons of water for each mission, to drink and to be poured over his heavy fur), the vigilance against insurgents and the alternate boredom and action of a war zone--read like a letter home. Dowling writes to honor his canine partner and his comrades, and offers a quick-paced, realistic and poignant glimpse of the lives of a U.S. Marine and his dog (and an epilogue providing details of their post-deployment years reassures readers that they made it home safe). --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller

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