Taking care of our own

26 Oct 2004 | Lance Cpl. Christopher S. Vega

We all remember trips to the dentist, thinking to ourselves we really don't need a check-up or we can just deal with the pain rather than have oral surgery. What if our teeth were our only means of defense?

A trip to the dentist office was not an option for Pecco, an aggression and explosives dog with Marine Corps Base, it was a necessity. Pecco broke his lower right canine tooth during a training exercise, requiring him to undergo an emergency root canal.

"A canine isn't as effective, especially in a police dog's case, if his teeth are ruined," said Army Capt. Julie Schneider, the base veterinarian. "Pecco relies on his teeth in order to bring down enemy objectives. If his teeth are damaged in any way it can affect his performance."

Pecco was sent to the base veterinarian, located on Tarawa Terrace, where they realized he would need to have oral surgery. Navy Cmdr. Stewart Miller, an endodontist with 2d Dental Battalion, led the operation.

The operation consisted of an extraction of the pulp tissue filling the canine tooth and refilling it with a material similar to rubber cement.

"We are pulling out the pulp tissue because it is attached to nerves that cause Pecco to be in pain anytime the tooth is messed with," said Miller. "Once we refill the tooth, Pecco will be back to normal."

The base veterinarian's office does provide limited medical services for personally owned pets, but its primary mission is to provide medical assistance on military animals such as work dogs.

The base vet does not usually conduct surgeries on animals; however, for cases such as Pecco, the base veterinarian provides surgical operations.

"This is my first time ever working on a canine," said Miller. "The only major difference in the layout of the teeth is that the teeth are longer, and it's critical to know how long the tooth is. I think this is a great opportunity to gain experience in my field."

"Police dogs are vital to military policemen; they help with drug busts, searching for bombs, and the security of military policemen," said Lance Cpl. Rustin Mackey, an MP with Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCB.

Dogs are also deployed to assist in the war. Schneider once examined a dog that had found around 15 bombs while deployed.

"That means that he probably saved over fifteen Marine's lives. How do you put a price on that?" asked Schneider.

This is Pecco's second root canal during his 11 year career with the base military policeman.

"I have worked with Pecco for three months, and I have already formed a bond with him," said Mackey. "I love the work I do with Pecco, I think it's the best job you can have being an MP."