Rex, the Long Beach Fire Department’s first search and rescue dog who retired in 2020, has died, officials announced via social media Friday. He was 14.
Born on April 16, 2008, the black Labrador soon found himself training to become a certified search dog, and a year later, was placed with his handler, LBFD Capt. Wade Haller.
Rex was one of a kind in Long Beach during his distinguished career, as search dogs are a scarce resource that require re-certification every couple of years, the department said.
He went through intense training in order to maintain his deployment-ready status and remain on-call to respond to any major disasters throughout the United States, according to the LBFD.
In 2017, Rex was deployed to Texas to help people during Hurricane Harvey. A year later he assisted with searching the areas in and around the mudslides that formed after the Thomas Fire that affected Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
And back in Long Beach, he took part in multiple missing people investigations.
But by the time he was nearing 13 years of age, Rex, with gray hair speckling his muzzle and black coat, was also reaching the end of his service.
On Dec. 17, 2020, Rex officially retired in a farewell ceremony celebrating his 11 years of service to the department.
“There is no question that it takes extreme dedication and passion to train and maintain a constant state of readiness for these amazing animals,” LBFD Chief Xavier Espino said during the ceremony in 2020. “Although he is retiring, Rex will always be part of the Long Beach Fire Department family.”
Since retiring, Rex lived his remaining days with the Haller family, their non-working dog Scarlett, and Dallas, who now serves as the LBFD’s new search and rescue dog. Rex died on Aug. 30.
“Rex was a great example of what a search dog is, and he will be forever missed,” Haller said in a statement on social media.