The soft white and black fur of Jade, the Siberian Tiger, was rent open in various places allowing her fluffy insides to poke out. He was carefully placed on the operating table and prepared for surgery at Fort Jackson's Veterinarian Treatment Facility.

Anesthesia was administered and the veterinarian began the process of suturing his wounds closed.
Jade was the first special furry friend to get some extra attention at the VTF Aug. 3. They weren't living and breathing pets, but some did have four legs. They were stuffed animals of various shapes and sizes who benefited from free surgery done on them to repair a variety of lacerations. The VTF held a special event called "Repair the Bear" to highlight how real pets are treated if injured.

"The idea is to have children bring in a teddy bear that needs repair," said Capt. Alicia O'Toole, the veterinarian corps officer in charge of the facility. "We can show them how we do sutures to mimic surgeries so they could learn about what they pet would go through" if they had to have surgery.
"It also helps get the word out about us being here."

Smaller owners were even allowed to administer notional "anesthesia" in order to get a closer look as doctors and technicians sutured their "friend's" wounds.

"Sometimes there won't be a vet available" so we have to be ready to properly suture animals, said Spc. Brigette Duncan, an animal care specialist at the facility. Animal care specialists are basically technicians who help inoculate animals and prepare them for surgery. In combat situations they may be called on to perform minor procedures if veterinarians are not available, she added.

During Jade's "surgery" O'Toole, began the operation while 4-year-old Arya O'Toole suited up to provide anesthesia. Later on animal care specialists helped bind up the tiger's wounds.

The event was a good outreach tool to reach the community O'Toole said, and also "teaches our technicians on suture techniques."

"We don't get to practice on living animals," Duncan, a native of Naples, Florida, who did her basic training at Fort Jackson three years ago said. "It's a fun way for us to learn."

"There are many times, especially when you are in an austere environment, like a deployment that many of our technicians will go through after this assignment," O'Toole said. "It's good to have an extra set of hands so that they know what they are doing.

"If you end up with a dog that has a severe wound … and you need someone to assist -- sometimes all you have is that technicians. You won't have other veterinarians around with that type of skill. So it helps having someone who knows how to gown, glove up and throw a suture or two where you need it. If you are holding on to something you can point and say, 'I need you help with that.' It's essential to have that extra pair of hands and have them well-trained."

This event was the first conducted at Fort Jackson. The VTF also held a similar event at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.