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The Real Life Hero Behind "Megan Leavey" Opens Up About How Her Canine Partner Changed Her Life

Hollywood can be a great way to highlight the stories of real people and the sacrifices they make to keep us safe.

With the new movie, Megan Leavey which opened in theaters on June 9, there was no doubt that this emotional story of a soldier and her dog needed to be told.

Based on a true story, the emotional experience of a young Marine corporal who was assigned to K9 duty during her deployment in Iraq has animal-lovers everywhere reaching for the Kleenex.

At its core this movie celebrates both soldiers and the dogs who save lives on the battlefield.

"The emotion in 'Megan Leavey' is not forced. It flows, up and down the leash, just like it's supposed to," wrote reviewer Sheila O'Malley.

Continue to the next page to hear about Megan & Rex's Story Behind the Movie.

Today, the former Marine works as a sales account executive for the New York Yankees. She works a normal 9-5 except on game days where she tends to stay a bit later.

After her work at the office, she goes home to her dog Patriot and 2 cats.

Her days now are a drastic comparison to those in 2005 when she was deployed in Iraq. At 22-years-old, the Marine focused on tasks of finding explosives before they could be detonated and cause serious damage. It was dangerous, high pressure work that was made a little bit easier thanks to her bomb-sniffing patrol dog, Rex.

The bond between Megan and Rex is the primary focus of the Hollywood movie Megan Leavey, which stared Kate Mara, who played on House of Cards and Fantastic Four, as the lead actress.

The story follows Megan and Rex through training, their more than 100 missions in Iraq between 2003-2006,  and the explosion that tore them apart.

"Rex was a dual certified dog, which means he was a bomb detection dog first of all. He was trained to sniff out a bunch of different explosives. He was also a patrol dog, which means he does the attack work as well. He can do either or at any given time," Megan told People.

The German Shepard and young Marine were paired shortly after Leavey entered the Marines' canine school, which is an elite program that only takes the top 5% of military classes.

Megan was inspired to join the Marines after she left State University of New York at Cortland.

"My first month away from home, in college, 9/11 happens. That had a really big impact on my life. ... It threw off everything that I felt like I was supposed to be doing. And I just thought there's a bigger picture in the world," she said.

She completed her boot camp and moved to Military Police school in Texas where she joined the K-9 program.

After surviving the roadside bomb in 2006 that took them both out of service, it took the pair almost a year to rehabilitate from their injuries.  

See where they are on the next page.

Megan was given a Purple Heart and an honorable discharge for her service, which is when she shifted her focus to bringing Rex back into her life.

Rex was deemed non-deployable after the duos second trip to Iraq, but was still used in training at California's Camp Pendleton.

Megan kept up to date on Rex, in the hopes that she could be the one to adopt him when he retired.

"I always kept tabs on what he was up to and who his new handler was. The whole process of having these dogs adopted out, is a necessary process, and I understand it," she said.

"When I left Camp Pendleton, Rex was only 6 years old, and that's not that old in working dog standards. They are a lot of money to train and you can't just be giving dogs away because people missed them. I always understood there was going to be some sort of time that I would have to wait," Megan said.  

After 4 years of waiting, she was able to give Rex a forever home as they reunited at his retirement ceremony.

Rex was suffering from facial palsy, nerve paralysis which left him unable to serve.

"I hope people take away the message, don't give up on something that you love. If you have a certain feeling stick with it," she said.

She feels like most animal-lovers will be able to relate to her story.

"Look what happened, I ended up getting Rex back, but it took four years.  Four years is a long time to not give up on something that affects what you feel everyday. I feel strongly about it. It was a hard time for me in my life and I think getting Rex back helped with a lot of issues and gave me closure that I was able to give him a great rest of his life. That means a lot to me," she said.

Rex unfortunately was not able to enjoy their story being told on the big screen because the canine hero passed away in December 2012.

"We were together all the time. Whenever I was going through hard times, he was the one constant in my life who was there. All the stuff I was going through personally he was always right there, no judgement," Leavey said