Yokota veterinarians: taking care of those who take care of us
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- While many of their duties are the same as civilian veterinarians, there’s something that makes the life of military veterinarians extraordinary. They are a vital part of caring for members of the world’s most highly-trained professional working dogs. For the staff of the U.S. Army Public Health Command District Japan veterinary clinic, Yokota branch, caring for military canines brings a whole new experience to the job of a veterinarian.
“I love working with the handlers and working dogs,” said Army Capt. Amanda Hauck, PHCDJ veterinarian and officer in charge. “It’s a much different relationship than between an ordinary pet and owner. It’s amazing. They have a much closer bond, which is really hard to understand unless you’ve witnessed it.”
The PHCDJ, Yokota branch, or Yokota Veterinary Clinic, is staffed and equipped to provide top-notch medical services for the 374th Security Forces Squadron MWDs, as well as those at other nearby bases when necessary. Inside the clinic, veterinarians are often busy at work, perhaps laying a cat on the x-ray table, soothing a dog’s fear while administering it shots or even performing surgery. Staff provide medical services for privately owned animals whenever possible but MWDs take priority.
One member of that staff, Army Pfc. Alli Oliver, PHCDJ veterinary technician, explained that she enjoys working with privately owned pets but her favorite part of the job is working with MWDs.
“The dogs are awesome,” Oliver said. “They mind really well and they’re not crazy. I love seeing the bond between them and their handlers.”
Yet that bond, Oliver explained, can also be part of what makes the job challenging.
“The hardest thing I’ve experienced as a veterinarian was when we had to euthanize MWD Allen,” said Army Pfc. Alli Oliver, PHCDJ veterinary technician. “All the handlers came here. Everyone at the kennels, all their leadership and the commander all came to say goodbye. They all hung out with him on the grass for his last moments.”
The bond between working dog and handler has had an impression on Hauck as well, who was a civilian veterinarian for 13 years before commissioning.
“I never would have thought it possible that somebody could be closer with a working dog than some of my clients have been with their pets,” Hauck said. “They really rely on each other. If they’ve been deployed it really seems like they put each other’s lives in their hands.”
Hauk explained that she knows many of the 374 SFS MWD handlers well and has a good working relationship with many of the canines.
“They definitely all have different personalities,” Hauk said. “Some can be aggressive and some can be very sweet and enjoy interaction, almost like a pet. I’m very fortunate to have a good group of dogs here.”
The U.S. military provides many opportunities to turn career skills into extraordinary experiences. Hauck explained that she chose to commission for the opportunity to make more of an impact than she had during her civilian practice. Now she takes care of canines who are on the front lines and operations throughout the world.