CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea -- Care for military working dogs and government-owned animals is not taken lightly in the military; and there many quality control measures in place to ensure these service animals are getting the care they deserve to accomplish their mission.
Spc. Tank Chester, English bulldog and mascot for 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team "Bulldog," 1st Armored Division (Rotational) had surgery to fix a condition called entropion, which occurs when the eyelids roll in, irritating the eye, at Camp Humphreys, Republic of Korea, Feb. 20.
"Certain breeds will get this condition (entropion) due to having excess skin on their face, so when the eyelids roll in, the hair on their eyelids is irritating the eyelid or actually the eyeball and they tear up a lot," said Capt. Sean Curry, a native of Wooster, OH, veterinarian with the 106th Veterinary Detachment, 65th Medical Brigade. "In Chester's case, he's got extra skin folds, so he has water eyes, the water gets down in the skin folds, and it creates a moist environment, which results in bacterial and fungal infections."
U.S. Army dog handlers and animal control officers spend a lot of time working with veterinarians and veterinary technicians to coordinate care for military service animals like Chester due to the diverse operational requirements placed on these animals.
"Taking care of Chester is a lot like having your own dog, except for there's more time invested in him because that's my purpose, just like if he was one of my soldiers," said Cpl. Mitchell Duncan, a native of New York, animal control officer with 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. "It's my job to make sure that he's taken care of and since he's a government-owned animal there are certain procedures we must follow. He's required to have monthly visits to the vet, and he's required to maintain a certain weight and health standard. Prior to becoming his handler, I received training from the veterinary technicians which covered everything from emergency care to daily standard maintenance."
Chester's entropion surgery was a success and it is the second one he's endured since he and the Bulldog Brigade arrived to the Republic of Korea in the fall of 2018. Fortunately for Chester, his health and welfare are not only important to Duncan and the Bulldog Brigade, but also one of the biggest reasons why Curry has chosen to serve.
"Dogs like Chester and the working dogs are why I do what I do," he said. They're just unique animals. They represent the unit, and if I can spend the day helping Chester feel better, or helping a working dog complete his job and save soldiers' lives, then that's a great day for me."