Handlers train for four-legged emergencies
By Senior Airman Shawn Nickel, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 06, 2012
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- For military working dog handlers, Self Aid Buddy Care isn't just for their two legged wingmen. When military working dogs make it into harm's way far from veterinarians, these Airmen take action to save lives.
Military working dog handlers at the 9th Security Forces Squadron train monthly with Army animal care specialist to learn techniques vital to combat readiness.
Each handler participates in learning skills to stabilize animals in the event of a life threatening injury. These incidents can range from wounds, heat injuries, dehydration or shock.
"If dogs get injured while deployed, and they are far enough away from base, they need to be stabilized so handlers can get them to a veterinarian," said U.S. Army Spc. Erik Bigham, 9th Force Support Squadron animal care specialist. "Injuries don't happen often, but these skills are extremely important. If a dog went down, it could save their lives."
Airmen are taught to place IVs and catheters, stabilize broken bones, control bleeding, dress head injuries, and treat dehydration and swelling. Bigham said even a simple mouth injury can be infected and need immediate care.
"The skills we learn are similar to Self Aid Buddy Care, but it's the equivalent to doing medical work on a frantic 3 year old," said Staff Sgt. James Worley, 9th SFS military working dog handler. "These animals know us; however, they don't know what we are doing to them is going to help save their lives."
Worley has four years experience working with MWDs. He has deployed and used vet care to treat dehydration of his animal. He said the biggest challenge to becoming proficient at vet care is hands-on application.
"We train our animals daily for their primary tasks, because it doesn't harm them," he said. "When it comes to learning to use needles on a live animal or doing something that could harm them, we prefer to use dummy dogs or props."
They use soap to thicken water creating a substance similar to the consistency of blood. The substance is used in props to help Airmen create a sense of realness while practicing.
"At home these skills are not as important, but if you are outside the wire downrange, it becomes critical," Worley said. "These dogs are our wingmen. They are as important to us as our two-legged counterparts, and if we don't take care of them, they can't take care of us."