Dogs barking and cats meowing are the sounds one hears walking into the vet clinic. In one room, a veterinary technician inserts a catheter into a large black dog. Its eyes tired, droopy and stressed, the dog eventually relaxes for the veterinary technician as she calms it down.
From basic first aid care, to emergency surgeries, the Mid-Atlantic Veterinary Command at the Fort Bragg, N.C., branch, is a major part of everything from saving the lives of personally owned cats and dogs, to the daily care of the military working dogs at Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base up to par, and the upkeep of family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s horses.
On a day to day basis, the clinic has many animals to keep up with. They see an average of 44 animals per day including the military working dogs, FMWR’s horses and personally owned pets totaling an average of more than 10,000 animals per year, said Spc. Patricia McCurdy, a veterinary technician who works at the clinic.
Many exciting things happen in the veterinary field, said McCurdy. The really amazing moments range from intense surgeries, to working with the military police’s dogs. One major surgery we saw was a dog that came in with a stomach so bloated and twisted, it cut off its circulation, breathing, and pretty much everything else as well, said McCurdy.
What happened was pressure from the dog’s natural gases in the body built up so much, causing the stomach to bloat to the point where it was twisted up like an oblong balloon. In order to save the dog’s life they had to insert a large needle into the stomach to release the gases. Afterward, the dog was able to heal and live a normal, happy life.
Along with the life-saving surgeries this clinic performs, there are challenges which come with the job of being a veterinary technician in the Army, said McCurdy. One of the biggest challenges here is creating a balance between personally owned animals and the Fort Bragg duty animals, all the while, maintaining all of the necessary Soldier skills.
McCurdy has done this so well, it has landed her in a unique position in the clinic as the technician in charge of the military working dog’s handler’s training, said Sgt. Craig Prewitt, McCurdy’s non-commissioned officer in charge.
“She is very mission oriented,” said Prewitt. “She knows her job and deals with customer service very well.”
The technicians here don’t just work with personal pets. They are also responsible for the health and wellness of FMWR’s 34 horses, and the military working dogs for Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, said Prewitt.
McCurdy is the provider of the horses’ and dogs’ required vaccinations and regular health check-ups, said Prewitt. On top of this she also trains the dog handlers themselves to perform first aid on their own dogs in order to prepare for a deployment.
The dog first aid training takes place once every quarter of the fiscal year. One very interesting tool used for this training is a fake dog known as a Rescue Jerry, said McCurdy. The goal of this training is to make sure all personnel who are deploying are certified on properly inserting a catheter into their own dog.
Eventually the handlers get to practice on their dogs, not just a fake one. Because the nearest vet clinic while deployed may be anywhere from 50 to 100 miles away, any injuries to the dog is usually grounds for a medical evacuation requiring a catheter to get fluids to the dog, said McCurdy.
Inserting a catheter into a live dog can be difficult at times, said McCurdy, but roughness is just something one has to take in order to save a dog’s life on the battlefield.
As the clinic winds down for the day, the main mission of the Fort Bragg vet clinic is not forgotten, which is to take care of all the military working dogs for Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base while still providing excellent care to personally owned cats and dogs of all sizes.
Story by Pvt. Lalita Guenther