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Day: January 23, 2012

“Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog” by Mike Dowling

“Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog” by Mike Dowling

c.2011, Atria Books
$26.00 / $29.99 Canada
304 pages



These days, you sleep pretty well at night.

Oh, sure, there are things that could keep you awake. Mostly, though, you’re tucked into bed when darkness comes and you close your eyes, knowing that you’re safe. The reason is because you trust the men and women who sacrifice to keep this country secure. Also, you’ve got your dog nearby and he’s always on alert.

And sometimes, as you’ll see in the new book “Sergeant Rex” by Mike Dowling, it’s a little of both.

Growing up in the San Francisco area, the fourth of six children, Mike Dowling says that there were always animals around.

Cats, hamsters, even a snake were big parts of his life but dogs were closest to his heart. Dowling spent long hours playing with his four-footed siblings, and he even raised a guide dog. But though he lived an undeniably great life, Dowling says he lost his way on the path to college, and he struggled.

Finally, at the ripe old age of 22, he joined the Marines and, once the decision was made, Dowling couldn’t wait to get started on his military career.  To speed the process, he entered without guaranteed placement, despite that friends advised against it.

It was the luckiest decision he ever made.

Dowling was training as an MP when he learned of the K9 corps, an elite group of handlers and highly-trained dogs. Everyone, he was told, wanted to work in the K9 program. Few were accepted, and Dowling would make sure he was one of them.

And that was when he met Rex.

It took a long time to earn the German Shepherd’s trust; in fact, Dowling was even bitten once. But as he learned to listen to his dog and Rex learned to rely on his handler, it became obvious that the “Rex and Dowling show” was a solid team.

Dowling became eager to be deployed. He and his fellow K9 soldiers talked often about it. Then in 2004, in an area of Iraq called the Triangle of Death, Mike Dowling finally got his wish…

Are you one of those people who likes to take a book to bed?  Me, too, but this was one I should’ve left elsewhere. “Sergeant Rex” is too exciting to read before lights out.

But while stories of war are a big part of “Sergeant Rex,” that’s not the only focus: author Mike Dowling shares tales of a warrior, but his dog is clearly the hero here. Dowling leads readers down dirt roads where danger was a toenail away, but he makes us trust his dog. He explains how K9 teams do their job, and the care that goes into keeping four-footed soldiers in top shape. And then Dowling charms the socks off us by repeatedly, fervently hoping that he never lets his partner down.

If you’re in the mood for a brutal book with a heartwarming core, “Sergeant Rex” is the one to seek, seek, seek.  Just keep it out of the bedroom, or you’ll never be able to sleep.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Housing starts keep sliding

Of the Keizertimes

Construction in Keizer continued to slow down in 2011.

And while total project valuation rose slightly in the year, the two biggest construction jobs – totaling some $2.7 million – were both Salem-Keizer School District projects. Total project valuation rose by $22,767 in 2011 to $13,791,000.

Two other major permit applications were from Keizer Station – a remodel at Target and tenant improvements for Guitar Center – and construction at Emerald Pointe Retirement Community, which is adding on to its facility.

New housing starts hit the lowest point in at least five years, with just 30 residential units beginning construction in 2011. This includes 17 single-family homes and a few duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes.

“This says to me that though Keizer was able to put it off for a while, we’re not insulated completely from the larger economic picture,” said Community Development Director Nate Brown.

The trend has seen single-family dwelling starts fall each year in the five-year period of 2007-11, falling from 68 in 2007. Builders started on 56 single-family homes in 2008, 45 in 2007 and 27 in 2010, falling to 17 in 2011.

“We keep hearing noises that 2012 is going to be a great year,” he said. “I’m hoping to see it. But I’m not seeing it yet.”

Local developer Lee Sjothun built Hawk’s Point in north Keizer. Just one major apartment complex – his – has been built in Keizer the past few years. The complex currently has 166 units and was built in two phases.

“With the housing situation the way it is, if they are employed or have the means they stay at apartments longer,” Sjothun said. “In the past we have lost numerous people on a monthly basis to new houses. Since that’s slowed down a lot, that’s what has kept the apartments full.”

Vacancy rate on multi-family homes is between 4 and 5 percent in the Salem area, which is about the same as the nationwide apartment vacancy level.

Sjothun said that a lack of large, easily developable tracts in Keizer make it difficult to locate more multi-family complexes in the city.

“Hawk’s Point, as an example, is kind of far out there for an apartment complex,” Sjothun said. “Typically you’d want them closer to existing services, but those properties just don’t exist in Keizer.”

Mike Erdmann, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Marion and Polk counties, said he’s hearing anecdotally of more interest in new homes, and that buyers are realizing they’re likely to never encounter a friendlier market for would-be homeowners, with prices reaching new lows and interest rates hovering at or below 4 percent.

“The challenge is that there’s very, very little land available in Keizer,” Erdmann said. “… One opportunity is that with proximity to the freeway and the Portland market, it’s proven popular for people wanting to buy new homes in the Salem area.”