Colorado Airman Granted Ownership Of Military Dog

Tech Sgt. Jamie Dana Gets To Adopt Rex

An injured Colorado airman has been granted ownership of her military dog.

Air Force Tech Sgt. Jamie Dana and her bomb-sniffing K-9 partner, Rex, were on a mission in Iraq, checking homes and villages for hidden explosives.

They were returning from a mission last June 25 when a roadside bomb exploded under the seat of their Humvee.

"They said it was very large IED, basically it went off right underneath the seat I was sitting. And Rex was sitting right beside me," Dana had said.

The blast mangled the vehicle and Dana suffered severe internal injuries, and multiple fractured or crushed bones. Medics thought she would die. As she lapsed into unconsciousness, she had one thought.

"Where's Rex? Where's my dog? Is my dog OK? Is Rex OK? Nobody would answer me. So I grabbed a medic's arm and I asked, 'Is my dog dead?' And they told me 'Yes.' And that broke my heart. It was the worst feeling I could imagine," she said.

She was sent to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where she stayed in a coma for one month.

When she regained consciousness in August, she was told the startling good news that Rex was not dead. He was OK and had only suffered minor injuries.

"Once they told me he was alive, that's when I wanted to see him."

At the hospital, Dana and Rex had an emotional reunion.

"It was just great. Just to see him and touch him and know he was alive. It was wonderful," she said.

Dana went to her father's home in Pennsylvania to recuperate and the Air Force Let Rex go with her.

"He's so awesome because he's so friendly. He's so happy. He loves people. He loves life. He's just awesome," she said.

But when Dana asked if she could officially adopt Rex, the military said no.

In a letter, a military official said letting Dana have Rex "would not be a legal or advisable use of Air Force assets despite the sentimental value and potential healing effects it might produce."

Top Air Force officials later relented, but they originally insisted that there was nothing they can do to make it happen because the law forbids giving away a trained military dog while it's still useful. Rex is 5 years old and the German shepherd owed the military the remaining five years of his useful life.

Dana said she understands the mission comes first. Still, she said she would give anything to be able to keep Rex.

"I don't want to lose him. He's been my best friend for three years. We've developed a great bond and I don't want to lose him," she said.

As her story received more press, Congress added an amendment to the Defense Appropriation Bill to allow Dana to adopt Rex. The amendment allows exceptions to the law prohibiting the adoption of military working dogs before the end of their useful life.

That bill has been signed by the president.

"They were injured together and they should heal together," said Brigadier Gen. Robert Holmes, director of the Security Forces and Force Protection.

A ceremony uniting Dana and Rex will occur Friday at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs.

Meanwhile, Dana said she still gets tired easily and her legs bother her a lot, but doctors say she's made a remarkable recovery.

Dana said she would like to become a veterinarian and train Rex to be a search and rescue dog.

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