JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. —
When a military working dog injures a tooth, it’s up to a team of dentists and veterinarians to ensure their bite remains worse than their bark.
Ricky, a military working dog, and his handler, Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Jordan Sison, paid a visit to the veterinarian clinic at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst for a canine root canal, July 26, 2018.
Ricky had damaged his canine tooth during training and was temporarily out of work for all intents and purposes. When training, military working dogs are driven by reward. Proper execution of tasks sees the dogs rewarded with toys and treats.
“Without a working tooth, I can’t pay him with his primary reward,” said Sison. “We can’t do any training if I can’t reward him.”
The injury made it difficult for the canine to do its job, train and even eat. Luckily for Ricky, the joint base is equipped to provide our four-legged friends dental services.
“Our job is to make sure we get the military working dogs to a point where they can be laser focused on what they do and not be bothered by the possibility of an infection or pain in their mouth,” said U.S. Army Capt. Alison Abou-Daoud, Joint Base MDL Veterinary Services Branch officer in charge. “They are force multipliers and they take care of our handlers; they take care of all of us.”
Before the root canal could be performed, Ricky was sedated. After lulling into unconsciousness, Ricky was carried to the operating table where the procedure and routine dental cleaning were performed on the sleeping hound. During the dental work, the Veterinary Treatment Facility staff monitored Ricky’s heart rate and blood oxygen levels while making adjustments to his sedation as the operation went on.
Ricky’s canine nerve was removed and a cap and filling were put in place by root canal specialist, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Louis Marconyak Jr., a dentist with the 87th Dental Squadron. Marconyak performs the vast majority of his work on human patients.
“My predecessor had offered help to the veterinary clinic and I was happy to fulfill this promise,” said Marconyak. “Prior to this procedure I had only performed practice root canals on canines during training, but the procedure is largely the same for people as it is for military working dogs.”
The procedure was only possible thanks to new equipment at the Veterinary Treatment Facility. Service members at the veterinary clinic plan to use these new capabilities to provide dental services for both the military working dogs here and community pets.
Ricky was back on his feet within minutes after the operation was complete, still wobbly from the sedatives, but ready and eager to be back at Sison’s side.
Sison said he was looking forward to getting back on the road with his buddy.
“He’s my best friend, he’s my partner and he’s there for me,” said Sison. “I’m excited to see him getting better.”