A sad fact for a force using military working dogs (MWD) in dangerous situations is that they are as likely as any human soldier to become injured or killed during their duties. Yet, when these dogs get hurt or need medical attention, a well-trained cadre of veterinary professionals are there to care for them.

The men and women of the United States Army Veterinary Corps are part of the Army Medical Department or AMEDD.

Here we see CPT Gabrielle Schrader, a veterinary service officer, check for airway obstruction in an animatronic canine. Image Credit: SPC Veronica Hamilton

The dog shown in the image above is no dog at all. That’s Diesel, an anatomically correct model of a typical military working dog, a training aid. He’s used to teaching military medical personnel how to care for our canine friends if they require it in the field. In real-world experiences, veterinarians are rarely present to care for sick or wounded animals. Currently, there are only about 700 veterinarians in the Army. They are spread few and far between.

If a dog is hurt in the field, chances are high that it will be cared for by the same doctors, nurses, and combat medics who take care of human warfighters. Because of that, medical personnel must receive some training in veterinary medicine. That’s what Captain Schrader is doing in the photo above. In this specific case, she is training US Navy medical personnel to identify and clear an airway obstruction.

The captain is a member of the 422nd Medical Detachment, a reserve veterinary services unit out of Rockville, MD. She is quoted by army.mil as saying,

“There are oftentimes very few veterinarians available to get to canine casualties, especially in a timely manner. So, we train these guys on canine first aid and tactical combat care to help save the lives of the patients.”

I’ll be honest here; it’s strange referring to animal models such as Diesel as “robots” or “animatronic.” According to our friends at the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “animatronic” means: “of, relating to, or being a puppet or similar figure that is animated by means of electromechanical devices.” After doing a bit more reading, I discovered that not only does Diesel bleed and have a heartbeat, but he also breathes and barks. So I suppose he is indeed animatronic. I was thinking more of “Lincoln in the Hall of Presidents” at EPCOT before. The dog looks quite realistic, except for the slightly too purplish-looking palate in the photo above.

Captain Schrader had a bit more to say about non-veterinary services troops taking care of animals in the course of their duties. She said, “We rely on human health care providers. One of these people may be saving a dog’s life, and in turn that saves their handler’s life. We may not be the big flashy ER doctors running the big hospital, but we are behind the scenes helping care for the overall health of the dogs and the Soldiers.”