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Air Force, Army: Making MWD’s bite worse than her bark

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Drilling through bone to reach the red, pulpy center amongst a chorus of short beeps, U.S. Air Force Capt. Bradley Phares, 19th Aerospace Medicine Squadron general dentist, executes a critical step in saving a military working dog’s life and career with the assistance of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Johnny Cohnes, 19th AMDS NCO in charge of Little Rock Air Force Base veterinary clinic.

Phares and Cohnes performed a root canal in the veterinary clinic on Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, to restore military working dog, Alpha, to fighting form.

“We were doing bite demonstrations, and the decoy Airman said he saw a piece of her tooth fly out,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Clayvon Finch, 19th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. “I’m sure the dentists on base do root canals all the time … probably not on dogs, but I was confident they’d do a good job.”

With a portion of Alpha’s tooth broken off, the nerve was exposed and susceptible to infection. Left untreated this could lead to swelling and puss, bone loss, severe pain and eventually death. Refusing to let that happen, Finch took Alpha to the veterinary clinic on base to get her the help she needed.

“It varies, but this was definitely not an everyday thing,” Phares said. “The operation went perfectly, though.”

The dentists were able to execute the surgery so successfully due in part to the assistance of the U.S. Army members supporting and facilitating the operation for them.

“My role was to apply and monitor the anesthesia for the MWD,” Cohnes said. “We requested the Air Force dentists because they are the subject matter experts for the procedure, and it gives the two services a chance to work together and share their expertise with each other.”

Combining the skills and resources of the two sister services created a powerhouse of problem-solving potential designed to save Airmen injured in the line of duty.

“Having an infection can be life-threatening,” Phares said. “It’s good we were all able to work together and fix it.”