Orthotic tech helps military working dog walk again
By Staff Sgt. Michael Ellis, 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 20, 2015
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- "He's done so much for us and for his country, it's the least we can do," said the veterinarian treating the four-legged canine whose military tenure has been longer than herself.
U.S. Army Maj. Andrea Henderson, veterinarian at the Department of Defense Holland Military Working Dog (MWD) Hospital, first started treating MWD SStash last October. A degenerative disease led to one of MWD SStash's hind legs needing surgery.
Prior to being injured MWD SStash worked as a patrol dog providing security at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, ensuring the safety of its more than 7,000 personnel. Throughout his 7-year career, he also provided personal security for various working dog handlers making him a vital asset to 51st Security Forces Squadron.
After being injured he was transferred to the DoD's premier, state-of-the-art MWD Hospital at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
A brace was ordered from a commercial company; however, inactivity led to severe muscle loss and the leg brace no longer fit properly.
Henderson visited the specialists from the 59th Medical Orthotic Lab to see if they could assist with MWD SStash's recovery.
Master Sgt. Sean McClintock, NCO in charge of the 59th MDW Orthotic Lab, took on the challenge of modifying the brace.
Although the request was unusual (and the first of its kind for the 59th MDW Orthotic Lab), McClintock used his expertise and previous experience to start creating a prototype harness to stabilize the brace. While previously stationed in Japan, McClintock modified a brace for a cat.
MWD SStash developed an infection after his first surgery not long after his arrival. The originally unmodified brace kept slipping, damaging his wounds which prolonged his recovery.
Once the wounds healed enough, McClintock outfitted his leg brace with the harness he created in his shop.
"The harness has multiple adjustment mechanisms that will keep the leg brace in position and no longer slip," said McClintock. "Hopefully it will help him to start walking again, which will help his recovery tremendously."
Normally military working dogs spend no more than a month at Holland Hospital. However, MWD SStash's treatment lasted 4 months.
Henderson explained how she felt honored to be able to give back to a military veteran who has done so much for the service.
"He's going to be retired because of his injury. Without the level of treatment that we provide, a lot of dogs wouldn't make it," said Henderson. "At least now he'll be able to relax and enjoy retirement."