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Mike Dowling's "Sergeant Rex": A Review

Updated on September 13, 2012

Mike Dowling was deployed to Iraq in 2004 as a military working dog handler—one of the first dog teams to see combat in many years. Sergeant Rex does far more than chronicle Dowling’s deployment to the heart of the conflict in Iraq; it does far more than tell the story of an average guy and his dog: Sergeant Rex weaves an intricate web of details, explaining Dowling’s late start in the Marine Corps on an open contract, his first time meeting his doggy partner Rex, their months in the searing heat of Iraq searching out explosives and saving lives, and every triumph and pitfall along the way.

I came across the mention of this book in a local newspaper recently, and I was so curious, I had to read it ASAP. I am the ultimate animal lover—dogs especially—and the idea of a Military Working Dog was and remains intriguing to me. In my experience, dogs have particularly forgiving and fiercely loyal souls (I tend to like and trust them more than most people). I wanted to learn how the military honed in on those wonderful traits and others to develop dog-person teams able to function in diverse, high-pressure situations. I was not at all disappointed in my decision to read this book…

This book is for dog-lovers, military buffs, and anyone, liberal or conservative, who enjoys learning something new while relishing a tale of true bravery and camaraderie. Dowling takes no political side on the issue of the war itself—he merely sets out to tell his and Rex’s story. It is charmingly written, with a few minor proofreading errors that, I will admit, do get under my skin. Dowling maintains a casual voice and frankly recalls his thoughts, feelings, and experiences at war in simple language that rings of the truth. We journey with him through the dangers of IED Alley and the Triangle of Death as he and Rex discover—through trial and error [fortunately, not very much of the latter]—how to do their thing safely in the middle of insurgent-Marine firefights and among packs of rabid dogs. To break up the heart-pounding adventures, Dowling includes flashbacks to his life before the military, paints the picture of his family at home, and includes the occasional anecdote about his well-trained, almost always well-behaved dog winning the hearts of the Marines with whom Dowling serves and providing them with much needed comedic relief in the midst of battle.

This is a truly heartwarming and honestly written narrative. Dowling manages to convey his dedication to his dog, his fellow soldiers, and his country in the most straightforward of ways. He inspires readers to quietly cheer for the Marines and provides an eye-opening insider’s look into the conditions under which our military works, the bravery and strength these warriors (human and canine alike) demonstrate, and the Iraqi response to the U.S. military presence in their county. The best part—reading about war-hardened United States Marines using the nickname, “Sexy-Rexy.”

Note: I wanted to read this book right away, but when I went to a chain bookstore to get it, I saw the hardcover version costs $26.00. I purchased mine on Amazon for significantly less. I suggest looking there or in a resale book shop. Rex’s daunting good looks grace the cover—it is hard to pass up.


I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to all of the men, women, and canines who serve or have served in our Armed Forces. Your bravery and strength is amazing.


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