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Providing care to canine counterparts

A 9th Security Forces military working dog sits in the veterinary clinic Dec. 20, 2017 at Beale Air Force Base, California. MWD dogs are trained in drug and explosives detection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tristan D. Viglianco)

Story by Airman 1st Class Tristan Viglianco

9th Reconnaissance Wing

9th Security Forces personnel depend on the Beale Medical Clinic for all their medical needs. Their canine counterparts, on the other hand depend on the Veterinary Clinic for top of the line care, which is provided by a veterinarian and team of Soldiers.

“We provide as much as we possibly can to the military working dogs,” said Dr. Heather Graves 9th Aerospace Medicine Squadron veterinarian. “Our goal is to keep them comfortable but also to keep them working at their full capability.”

In order to do so, the veterinary clinic provides MWDs with as much care as their resources allow.

“We see them for their semi-annual exams, sick calls and emergency situations. We also perform dental and a moderate variety of surgeries,” she said. “Anything really big like emergency surgeries we would refer them elsewhere after we triage them to see what we’re dealing with.”

In addition, the clinic also makes sure the dogs get their vaccinations on schedule and treats injuries, which may occur.

“We keep MWDs up to date on their vaccines including rabies, distemper, and leptospirosis,” she said. “As for injuries we deal with minor wounds, tail-tip trauma, abscesses and sports type injuries.”

The clinic has a close relationship with the handlers on base so they are able to diagnose and treat injuries which arise.

“Beale’s handlers are really good and alert to their dogs’ needs. They’ll come back from exercising and notice something’s not right and bring them in,” she said. “We want to get ahead of the injury before it becomes a problem. We want keep the dogs happy and ready to deploy.”

When it comes time for an MWD to deploy the team at the clinic plays a large part in process.

“When the dogs deploy we provide health certificates, heartworm prevention medication, flea and tick treatment,” said Spc. Angel Orriola, U.S. Army Public Health Command veterinary technician. “We also provide them a bag with bandages, fluids, and syringes in case they get injured.”

Orriola believes the MWDs perform a critical function and draws satisfaction from his contributions to their well-being.

“It is important to take care of them because they take care of us downrange. When they find an explosive they could potentially save hundreds of lives” he said. “Taking care of them is important because they are serving their country and they deserve the best.”

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