News: Army-Marine partnership keeps military dogs fighting fit
Story by Lance Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. — Since the days of cavalry, the Army employed specialists to take care of animals in the military. Horses gave way to the tank, but veterinarians still play an important role by keeping military working dogs healthy.
Military dogs today save lives by sniffing out bombs and subduing potentially dangerous suspects. Overseas, the dogs face the same dangers of roadside bombs and gunfire as troops. On the battlefield and the home front, military dogs and their handlers are always taking care of each other.
"It’s very important making sure these dogs are safe, healthy and ready to go," said Army Sgt. Heather M. Aguas, an animal care non-commissioned officer at Cherry Point’s Army veterinary clinic. "These dogs save lives downrange, whether it’s Marines, Army, Navy or Air Force, they find caches of explosives which save their squads."
The Cherry Point clinic takes care of military working dogs of the Provost Marshal Office and provides pet care services for Marines and retirees living in the area. Two soldiers and two civilians staff the clinic.
Before arriving at Cherry Point, Aguas worked at Dog Center Europe in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Dog Center Europe is the main veterinary hospital for any working dogs that get sick or injured in Afghanistan. Aguas regularly took care of dogs suffering from gunshot and shrapnel wounds received in combat operations.
Medical care for the dogs is the same any human would expect, said Lance Cpl. Michael D. Quinn, a dog handler with Cherry Point's Provost Marshal Office. They have their own service record books, medical and dental records and receive annual checkups.
Last year, a snake bit a Cherry Point military working dog during a routine training mission. Marine Transport Squadron 1 airlifted the dog to Norfolk, Va., for life-saving measures. The dog still works at the PMO kennel today.
Locally, dog handlers and veterinarians stand by the same tenants of saving lives and good care for the dogs. Quinn said it is important to keep Cherry Point's military working dogs in good shape because if there is a bomb threat locally and there are no dogs to support it, that is one less asset available to remedy the situation.
The Provost Marshal Office's dogs can also search for missing persons, fugitive criminals, drugs, apprehend dangerous suspects and serve as attack dogs.