Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey served with her four-legged partner Sgt. Rex through two tours in Iraq, completing hundreds of missions searching for roadside bombs until an insurgent explosion took them both out of service.
More than five years later, Leavey, 28, is fighting to adopt the dog she handled since her earliest days as a Marine before the German shepherd is put to sleep.
"Rex is my partner, I love him," Leavey, who lives with her father in Rockport, N.Y. and works as a dog handler, told MSNBC. "We have been through so much together…I’ve spent day and night with this dog. It’s a very strong bond."
Leavey was discharged in Dec. 2007, but Rex -- considered a valuable work dog -- was put back in service after he recovered from his injuries. That was until a month ago, when he was diagnosed with a kind of nerve paralysis that left him unable to serve, the Westchester Journal News reported.
It's now a race against the clock as Leavey struggles to cut through military red tape and adopt Rex before he is put down.
"As a safety precaution, they don't give all dogs away," she told the Journal News. She said Rex, a strong "alpha dog," never hurt anyone he wasn't supposed to.
"The dilemma with me is the minute they say he can't be adopted, because he's sick and because he can't work, they'd have to put him to sleep," she said. "Not because he's too sick to live a good life, but because they can't utilize him so it wouldn't make sense for them to keep a dog they're not going to work at the kennels. I don't want to let that happen."
But time is ticking, she said.
"This is not [the Marines'] first priority," Leavey told New York Fox affiliate WNYW-TV. "A lot of times it gets lost in the shuffle."
To help speed the process up, she reached out to veteran's organizations and to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, who oversees military service dog training. In the letter, Schumer detailed the relationship Leavey and Rex had and credited them with saving countless lives, according to the Journal News.
If Leavey's request is granted, Rex will enjoy a sizable home with a fenced-in yard. Until she hears more, all she can do is wait.
"It's a partnership," Leavey told the newspaper. "I feel like I know Rex so well. I'm so looking forward to seeing him again."