- Associated Press - Saturday, June 13, 2015

DOVER, Del. (AP) - From the panting yellow lab with the nasty ear infection to the quivering Siamese cat in need a nail trim, the Veterinary Treatment Facility at Dover Air Force Base is not as high-drama as one might expect.

Established in the 1980s to care for the base’s military working dogs, the center also provides care for private animals belonging to service members, retirees, reservists and National Guard members.

“They do things right here,” says Rebecca Childers, the wife of a retired staff sergeant who has brought multiple cats to the tidy clinic.

On a recent weekday, Childers’ Siamese cat, Maxwell, came in for routine vaccines.

Vet services here typically cost 25% to 50% less than a private vet office. Annual exams are $35 each; rabies shots are $10. Open five days a week, the facility does same-day appointments. Its budget is paid by taxpayers and by the revenue it generates.

Staffed by three active duty Army members and five civilians, the clinic sees an estimated 3,500 patients a year. Inside, there are three exam rooms, a lab area, an immaculate surgical suite, an ultrasound machine, and a high-tech table for dental cleanings.

The facility is only equipped to handle basic surgeries, such as neuter procedures and mass removals. Orthopedic surgeries and emergencies are referred to private vets in the area. Dog grooming and boarding are not offered. Exotic animals are sent to specialists off-base.

The base’s seven military dogs are top priority. Besides doling out preventative care, U.S. Army Capt. and veterinarian Amanda Jeffries is on call round-the-clock in case a military dog breaks a toenail or has a bout with diarrhea due to stress.

A few months back, she received an impromptu visit from more than a half-dozen U.S. Marine Corps dogs traveling from their assignment in Afghanistan back to Japan. They made a pit stop in Dover so Jeffries could give them U.S. health certificates.

Jeffries also handles health certificates for service members who want to take their animals overseas. It’s a complicated process that requires up-to-date rabies shots and microchipping to avoid extended periods of quarantine at the new location. Jeffries explains the risks of transport, especially for elderly or sick animals.

Still, she says, the majority of clients bring their pets to their next station assignment rather than leave them with a friend.

“I wouldn’t want to adopt her and then she gets so attached to me and then I leave,” explains Senior Airman Jason Melanson. Melanson visited the clinic recently to get a checkup for his three-year-old lab-pitbull mix, Diamond, whom he adopted two days before.

He appreciated the convenience of the clinic and the low prices.

The U.S. Army is tasked with maintaining similar facilities at bases for every branch of the military around the globe. Jeffries, 27, also manages smaller clinics at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

To Jeffries, providing good health care for pets reduces the risk of owners contracting intestinal parasites and other diseases.

A recent graduate of North Carolina State University, she joined the Dover facility after the Army paid for her vet training. In two years, she will be reassigned to another clinic.

She is the proud mother of four dogs, including two retired military working dogs. Her German Shepherd, Sebi, is a cuddle bug who can attack on command. But since retiring from drug detection patrol, he’s more comfortable chasing tennis balls and napping.

He “served our country for 10 years,” Jeffries says. “He can stay on my couch for as long as he wants.”

Sebi is well-adjusted, but Jeffries has seen other military dogs suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, leading her to prescribe anti-anxiety medication.

She also deals with more serious cases, including a white German Shepherd diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer and a pitbull mix puppy who developed a twisted bladder after an improper spay surgery. The puppy had to be put down.

“I used to cry during every one,” Jeffries remembers. Over time, she came to accept her role as preventing further suffering.

Facility operations assistant Amy Roberts recalls working at an animal shelter in Guam where the euthanasia rate was approaching 95 percent. Roberts blamed some service personnel who dumped their animals before moving to their next assignments.

When Roberts’ husband, a tech sergeant, was relocated to Guam, the couple spent roughly $1,000 to bring their Pomerian. While there, they adopted two other “booney” dogs, a terrier mix and pointer mix.

This fall, the Roberts will move the entire clan to Korea.

“Most bases only allow two dogs and we can’t separate them,” she says.

“Every move we make, we plan ahead for the dogs.”


Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., https://www.delawareonline.com

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