EDWARDS AFB – Born Oct. 18, 2005, Rex served at Edwards Air Force Base from Feb. 1, 2008 until June 5, 2015, when he died of cancer. He was certified as a patrol narcotics detector dog, and during his life Rex had nine responses in Afghanistan and 34 at Edwards and surrounding areas.
A memorial service was held for Rex on July 31.
Presiding official Lt. Col. Leonard Rose, 412th Security Forces Squadron commander, described Rex as the “grumpy old man” of the kennel.
“To put it lightly, Rex didn’t like kids. If the kennel had a front lawn, the neighborhood would have known to stay off of Rex’s front lawn,” said Rose.
The last time Rose saw Rex was during the Desert High School Graduation June 3. The day after graduation was a normal duty day for Rex. But the day after that he was found in his kennel “a little lethargic” and he died later that day.
“Literally, his body covered in cancer, he never complained once because he was doing what he loved,” said Rose.
Tech. Sgt. Andy Lansdowne, 412th SFS, MWD Section kennel master, was Rex’s last handler and the narrator at his service.
“The compassion that Rex would show was unlike that of any other military working dog that I have seen – unless you were a small kid,” said Lansdowne. “Rex loved everyone and in my eyes he was much more than a dog. He was a coworker, friend, and part of my family.”
At the front of the church an empty kennel where Rex once slept represented the life he gave to protect our freedom. A leather leash and chain represents the everlasting eternal bond between dog and handler. An inverted bucket is a reminder that they are no longer here for the handler to fulfill their needs of food and water. Rex asked for nothing in return but companionship and affection.
Rex’s longest handler was Staff Sgt. Brett Hurley. Although he could not attend the service, he sent an audio message in Rex’s honor. Hurley is currently stationed at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where he is an MWD instructor. Hurley worked with Rex for over four years at Edwards including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.
When Hurley first learned he was assigned to Rex, he was bitter. Rex, unlike Hurley’s previous dog, was not very good at patrol and detection. But after a little guidance, Rex learned to do his job well.
“From that point on our relationship flourished immensely…I realized that Rex wasn’t a bad dog, he just lacked guidance,” said Hurley.
Rex also didn’t have the same desire to bite that other patrol dogs had. Hurley recalled a time when Lansdowne thought of the perfect way to get Rex to bite. He would put on a bite suit and chase Hurley, encouraging Rex to protect his handler by biting Lansdowne.
And Rex did decide to bite…Hurley.
At the end of his shift, Rex would play with his best friend, military working dog Schmkyel, 412th SFS.
“Military working dogs are so much more than just dogs. They are our friends and brothers and sisters. So the next time you see them patrolling on base, don’t think of them as just a dog, think of them as a person, as your best friend, and that is exactly what they mean to us as handlers,” said Hurley.
Chaplain (Capt.) W. Rian Adams offered the invocation and spoke in Rex’s honor.
“Most of the dogs I have known are extremely faithful… [Rex] embodied service as most of us here only wish we could. He served his nation and put his life on the line protecting the ones he loved stateside and in Afghanistan.”
According to Landsdowne, military working dogs do everything that is asked of them. They detect and deter threats against Edwards and its population. They also support the President of the United States in Secret Service missions.
Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, 412th Test Wing commander, only met Rex once since he arrived at the end of March. The memorial service, which he described as outstanding, gave those in attendance a chance to learn about Rex’s dedication to his job.
“Just like our servicemembers, they deploy overseas and they do a lot of great work for our country,” said Schaefer. “These unsung heroes protect our gates day in and day out to make sure that we’re safe.”
After the playing of “Taps,” the other military working dogs and their handlers were invited to pay their final respects to Rex followed by anyone else in attendance who wished to do so.