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Fort Polk community can take comfort in care of Family pets

Capt. Gina Cipolla-Canella, Veterinary Treatment Facility officer in charge, draws medicine into a syringe Aug. 30.

Story by Angie Thorne
Fort Polk Public Affairs Office

FORT POLK, La. — Whether you are a single Soldier whose pet helps keep loneliness at bay, a military Family who just happens to have a four-legged member or a Soldier whose partner is a military working dog — pets are an important part of your lives.
Making sure those animals get the best care possible is what the Fort Polk Veterinary Treatment Facility does, thanks in part, to veterinarians like Capt. Gina Cipolla-Canella, Veterinary Treatment Facility officer in charge, and Capt. Matthew Putnam, treatment Facility veterinarian.
Putnam is still new to the facility. “I’ve only been here about a month, but my wife and I are enjoying it,” he said.
He and his spouse moved from Colorado and he said though they miss the mountains and the heat is an adjustment, feeling comfortable about the move is more about the people than anything else.
“There is a good community here with a great spirit that we like,” he said.
Putnam said he has always had a connection with animals. “I was one of those kids who always wanted to be a veterinarian. Cows and cats are my two favorite species, with dogs following at a close third,” he said.
Though one of his goals is to perform large animal veterinary medicine, he said the Army drew him in, especially working with military working dogs.
The military was always an option he wanted to pursue, said Putnam, but the timing was never right until he chanced upon a military scholarship program. “That’s when two things that I have always wanted to do came together and it worked out just right,” he said.
In addition to doing clinics at the facility, Putnam works with Fort Polk’s military working dogs. “I really enjoy working and training with the Soldiers and their dogs,” he said.
Cipolla-Canella, who has been at Fort Polk since December, said she also enjoys her duties with the working dogs. “They are respected members of the military and serve an important part of the mission. Seeing the relationship between the handlers and dogs and providing care to an animal that obviously means so much to the military and their handlers is rewarding,” she said.
Cipolla-Canella said her goal is to have as much of a positive impact on Fort Polk and the Army as she can while she is here. She said many Soldiers coming to Fort Polk don’t have Family nearby and are just coming here with their pet, and those with Family often include a pet in the mix.
“It’s good to help people take care of their pets and provide them low-cost vaccines, spays and neuters. I think it’s important to provide veterinary services. It can be a huge stress relief to come home to a healthy, happy pet,” she said.
Putnam said prevention is the key to the health and welfare of pets on post and encourages pet owners to be informed.
“The No. 1 thing pet owners can do in this area — especially if they have a dog — is to make sure they are on heart worm preventive. If your dog is not on a preventive and you live here any length of time, it’s almost certain that your dog is going to be heart worm positive,” he said. “In the long run, the small cost per month to keep them safe is easier than the potential heart worm treatment, which is not only difficult but also expensive and risky for your pet.”
Putnam said he believes the Fort Polk vet facility is a service that makes the quality of life for Soldiers and Families better. “Our goal is to support them in everything from basic services to complexities such as surgery,” he said.
The Fort Polk Veterinary Facility is located at 665 Colorado Ave. For more information call 531-1322.

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