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Vandenberg's veterinarians

Lori Culwell and Trey Cavazos, U.S. Army Public Health Command animal health technicians, administer anesthetic to an Alaskan malamute before surgery, Dec. 1, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. On a daily basis the veterinarians and technicians at the Army veterinarian clinic on Vandenberg conduct surgeries and administer immunizations for furry patrons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ian Dudley/Released)

Lori Culwell and Trey Cavazos, U.S. Army Public Health Command animal health technicians, administer anesthetic to an Alaskan malamute before surgery, Dec. 1, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. On a daily basis the veterinarians and technicians at the Army veterinarian clinic on Vandenberg conduct surgeries and administer immunizations for furry patrons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ian Dudley/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Alaskan malamute paced in his cage; fighting to stay awake against the sleep inducing drugs he was given. His bear-like paws messed up the bedding, and his weight caused the metal floor to flex ever so slightly as he walked in small circles. The whining from the cage and the pop-pop sound of the metal floor all but ceased as the malamute succumbed to the drugs and lay there like a poorly folded fur coat.

After opening the cage door, two animal health technicians picked up the quivering and partially limp dog and heaved him onto a table. As he struggled against the drug induced stupor, the arms of the technicians encircled him tightly, like a child clinging to an oversized teddy bear. A small patch of fur was then quickly shaved above his paw and a needle inserted, injecting anesthetic into his bloodstream.

In addition to looking after family pets like the malamute, a top priority for the clinic is taking care of a valuable Air Force resource; military working dogs. On a daily basis the clinic conducts multiple surgeries and administers immunizations for furry patrons.

"Our veterinary treatment facility maintains installation readiness through the prevention of diseases, and preserving the health of government owned animals," said Teresa Brinn, U.S. Army Public Health Command veterinarian.

Valued at thousands of dollars, the military working dogs are an extremely costly resource and as such require sufficient care.

"The average purchase price of a military working dog is anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000," said Staff Sgt. Henry Edwards, 30th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer. "Over the course of the dog's career, an average of 8 to 10 years, they can easily be worth more than $100,000."

Aside from the regular care the military dogs receive, they undergo thorough physicals before and after deployments.

"We make sure that the military working dog's vaccinations are up to date and that they are healthy for when they deploy and when they return from deployments," said Davielle Harshman, U.S. Army Public Health Command veterinarian.

Another priority of Vandenberg's vet clinic is preventing zoonotic diseases which are diseases spread from animal to human.

"We do a lot of preventative medicine," said Harshman. "If the animal population on base is healthy, than the human population will be healthy."

The veterinary clinic provides the necessary care to privately owned animals of base personnel and veterans, which enhances the quality of life for service members and their families.

"It is very important for base personnel to have their animals and their pets cared for," said Brinn. "They are extremely important for psychological health and well-being, and pets are part of the family. Our goal is to take care of that family." 

However, taking care of fuzzy members of the family extends to more than treating and preventing diseases.

"We can also microchip pets here," said Brinn. "It is an inexpensive process and necessary for pets if you are moving overseas. When pets receive a microchip it allows us to track them if they run away or get lost."

Despite the clinic's primary mission of providing care for the military working dogs of Vandenberg, they are always ready to answer questions or help a sick pet.

"We are here for the base," said Harshman. "Anything that they need or any questions that they have about animal health we can answer, so give us a call if you need anything."

For more information about the veterinary clinic or to make an appointment for your pet call 805-606-3019