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    Spider bite drives innovative solution at MWD kennels



    Story by Senior Airman Joseph Leveille 

    1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs


    The tension filled the room and the unconscious patient’s heartbeat steadily kept rhythm in the background.

    The piercing sound of metal breaks through silence as the surgeon lifts the scalpel from the table to work on a gaping leg wound.

    The surgeon’s margin of error is slim and the consequences -- deadly.

    Fortunately, the outcome of this surgery was positive as the patient opened their eyes … and wagged his tail.

    Max, a military working dog with the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, not only survived his surgery, but also opened the eyes of his training staff and the Air Force to answering a new question: How do they reduce the risk of this happening again?

    “We conduct health checks on our dogs daily and multiple times a day,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kyle J. Stout, the MWD kennel master with the 1st SOSFS. “All handlers and kennel personnel will walk through the kennels a minimum of once every four hours.”

    On these checks personnel inspect cleanliness, water and the overall well-being of each MWD.

    "I saw Max was back in a corner and he didn't move when I walked by," said Reed. "I noticed a large spot on his leg that wasn't there on the previous check -- which meant it grew very fast."

    Max was emergency transported to the veterinary clinic on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and the problem was identified--a spider bite from a Brown Recluse, whose venom causes rapid breakdown of skin tissue and sometimes death.

    The staff then emergency transported Max to the veterinary clinic on Fort Benning, Georgia, where he would receive surgery. There, Max would begin a 60-day fight for his leg and ultimately his life.

    “The chances of him returning to duty was only about 25 percent,” said U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Rieves, an Army Veterinary Corps officer with Fort Gordon Public Health Activity. “We were looking at a very likely amputation, which would have been a medical disposition and he would have retired early.”

    Back at Hurlburt Field, the 1 SOSFS MWD training staff realized that the outdoor conditions allowed too much risk to their K9 partners. When MWD Max was bit by a brown recluse it was the final straw for change.

    “We normally take precautionary steps and coordinate with the base civil engineer squadron to come out and spray for critters once a quarter on the exterior of the facility,” said Stout. “Living here in the panhandle of Florida there are lots of creatures that could affect the welfare of an MWD so we have to pay extra careful attention to these dogs.”

    With Max in the back of their mind, the answer to their previous question on reducing risk was built -- a 28,000 square foot training yard. The area was built with canine grass, which discourages unwanted creatures such as spiders from sharing the same space as the highly specialized and trained MWDs.

    “We look at these dogs as teammates, coworkers and family members because they are extremely important to us,” said Reed.

    Following Max’s 60 days at Fort Benning, Max was cleared to return to training in Sept. 2019 and was successfully rehabilitated to full health. He has since been requalified as a specialized MWD, and can be found once again patrolling and keeping Hurlburt Field safe.



    Date Taken: 02.13.2020
    Date Posted: 02.13.2020 12:12
    Story ID: 362976
    Location: HURLBURT FIELD, FL, US 
    Hometown: CAMARGO, IL, US
    Hometown: MOBILE, AL, US

    Web Views: 99
    Downloads: 2