Dog center to replace 51st veterinary clinic
Stars and Stripes May 8, 2008
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Army Sgt. Tracy Ast winced as doctors drew a scalpel across her baby’s belly.
“I’m nervous for him,” said Ast, with the 230th Military Police Company. “I’m like his mom.”
Ast’s “baby” is military working dog Bertje, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, and the two have recently completed a six-month tour in Iraq.
On Monday morning, Army Dr. (Capt.) Jodi Sangster, clinic officer in charge of the Kaiserslautern Veterinary Treatment Facility, stitched Bertje’s stomach to the wall of his abdominal cavity. The preventive procedure stops a potentially fatal scenario in which Bertje’s stomach could roll and twist if the dog becomes bloated.
Bertje is one of several Army and Air Force working dogs under the care of the 51st Medical Detachment (Veterinary Medicine) on Pulaski Barracks in Kaiserslautern.
In addition to caring for military working dogs, the unit and its civilian staff operate the Kaiserslautern Veterinary Treatment Facility, which provides care for roughly 9,000 family pets.
Having held a rebasing ceremony last month, the 51st is set to move to Fort Bragg, N.C., in July, but Army vets will remain at Pulaski, picking up the new name of Dog Center Europe.
The name change will take place May 30, and should not affect identification card holders whose pets receive care at Pulaski.
“To the pet-bringing public that we serve in the vet clinic, there will probably be absolutely no noticeable difference whatsoever,” said Army Dr. (Capt.) Shannon Lacy, deputy commander of the 51st Medical Detachment.
The unit also serves the referral center for all military working dogs in the European and Central commands’ footprints. If working dogs are wounded downrange and need care that cannot be provided in theater, they come to the 51st for treatment. Some have flown on medical evacuation flights alongside wounded troops to nearby Ramstein Air Base.
As the 51st, the unit had the dual mission of serving as the referral center for military working dogs in EUCOM and CENTCOM and being one of only three deployable veterinary hospitals in the Army. As Dog Center Europe, the unit will focus solely on its referral center mission, and it will increase its capabilities by becoming a Level IV treatment facility.
Currently, the clinic has between 150 and 200 visits from family pets each week. Also, the vets treat each military working dog under its primary care between two and three times a year, Sangster said.
“These are high-drive dogs so there’s a lot that comes along with that,” she said. “We see gastro-intestinal upset a lot. We’ve had a couple broken tails that we’ve had to fix and just random stuff that comes along with being a dog. Lots of lameness exams. They’re out there working hard every day so just like people athletes, they sprain things. They get ouches that we have to fix.”