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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Wounded Iraq vet can keep dog, House says


It took an act of Congress, but a wounded Iraq veteran will get to keep the bomb-detecting dog she served with in the war.

Tech Sgt. Jamie Dana, 26, assigned to Peterson Air Force Base, has been recuperating in Black Forest after being released from the hospital.

Lawmakers had to decide whether she could keep her canine partner, Rex, as a pet, retiring him in his prime from military service, or send him back to active duty with another handler.

The House on Thursday approved a provision in the defense appropriations bill that will allow Dana to adopt Rex, said Chris Tucker, a spokesman for Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., one of several lawmakers who pushed for the adoption.

Without Congress intervening, federal law stated the Air Force could not allow Dana to take the combat dog home until he is too old to be useful, usually when a dog is 10 or older. Rex, a German shepherd, is 5.

“Our country owes Jamie a whole lot more than the right to adopt a dog that has, in her time of recovery, brought nothing but comfort and joy to her life,” Peterson said in a written statement.

The provision allows the military to waive the standard adoption rules in cases like Dana’s.

Dana, who declined a request for an interview Thursday, has served in the Air Force since 1998 and volunteered for a six-month tour in Iraq, where she and Rex helped at checkpoints and searched buildings.

She was injured in June, about four weeks after arriving, when a roadside bomb detonated under her Humvee in Baghdad.

The three others in the Humvee and Rex had minor wounds, but Dana’s wounds were so severe her family initially was told she might not survive.

Her first concern after the explosion was the welfare of her dog, whom she was told had been killed. After waking from a drug-induced coma three weeks later at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., she learned Rex was alive.

“He jumped up and licked me and got tangled in my IV lines,” she told The Gazette earlier this month.

Dana, who now walks with a cane, returned from leave Dec. 1 for desk duty with the 21st Security Forces Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base. She has said she wants to become a veterinarian and train Rex in search and rescue.




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