Megan Leavey and Rex Won’t Fail in Their Mission to Touch Your Heart: Movie Review

(Photo, above, from official website:

Last night I was first in line with my hubby to see Megan Leavey, which is a movie about a young female Marine who trains a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd, Rex, and deploys with him to Camp Ramadi, Iraq as his handler.

Despite the fact that females aren’t supposed to be going on the more-dangerous missions, she soon finds herself and Rex out there anyway, and together they save hundreds of lives by searching for and detecting IEDs throughout two deployments…until an explosion almost takes them both out.

She has to fight many things, including bureaucracy, PTSD, and her own feelings of inadequacy to reunite with Rex—and it’s a fight so many will be able to get behind.

Of course the movie’s a tear-jerker, and I’m sure every shepherd lover will be remembering those they’ve loved and lost throughout the movie, adding to its emotional tug.

As a former chained-dog rescuer, I’m always floored when I see how much dogs are capable of: they serve our country, die for our freedom, and save thousands of lives.

Why do we as a nation still tolerate yahoos chaining them in our backyards. Why?

[Grumble. Grumble.]

Some of the lines in the movie that moved me or struck a chord follow:

  1. Rex is a Marine Corp dog. He’s not your dog or my dog.
  2. Everything you feel goes down leash. If you’re not confident, he’s not confident. I can’t teach you how to bond.
  3. They aren’t pets. They aren’t even dogs anymore. They’re warriors. They come back with all the same issues we do.
  4. I want you to be a person who shows up. So you failed. I failed. Keep failing until they’re tossing dirt on your corpse.
  5. As much as they’re our family, we’re theirs too.

Watching the movie gave me food for thought on where I stand in relation to dogs in the military. Having been in the Air Force, I have a military bone in my body, and I still believe in much of what our military does to protect us in time of need.

At the same time, I love animals, and I don’t want humans to bring them harm. The thought of an animal dying on our behalf hurts me greatly, as much as if not even more than we humans giving our lives in the line of duty.

Because we genuinely choose to be there.

But do they?

It’s a quandary. When I study the lines I jotted down from the movie, I can’t help but note the innate contradiction repeated throughout. Half of the time the powers that be talk about the need to bond with the dog—how we love them and they love us—but then they go off in the opposite direction, asserting that they are simply property of the military, just warriors like everyone else.

I had a very hard time making these polar opposite statements jibe with each other. And really, I guess, that’s the crux of the movie.

It’s a conflict between how we feel about dogs as living beings vs. the military hardline, which spares no room for bonding or feelings or any of that mushy stuff.

Unfortunately, humans are not wired that way, at least not the majority of us. In the end, if the military is to continue to use dogs in the line of duty, they need to—at a minimum—ensure a humane adoption by someone who loves them when they hit retirement age. It’s the least they can do for these heroes.

I highly recommend the movie Megan Leavey to all my animal-loving friends, and welcome your discussion points.

Here’s a link to a USA Today article about the movie.

P.S. Speaking of shepherds and shooting, I was reminded of Ezekiel, a shepherd I had the honor of saving from certain death around Christmas of 2011. Whether you believe in God or not, I am convinced a higher power sent us to rescue him at the exact moment we did. I would later realize that the very man who shot him drove up while we were there hoping to finish him off.

The man ended up confessing to the shooting, and it would be the ONLY case during my years helping abused dogs where the abuser was found guilty…or even charged with a crime. I got to speak on the dog’s behalf during sentencing, and I felt the responsibility of truly being the dog’s voice. Below is a short video of Ezekiel’s story, if you’re interested.

Ezekiel got his happy ending, and went to live in the mountains of central PA with a very loving family. It’s my heartfelt hope that he is still living his happily ever after today.


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