Story by Adele Uphaus-Conner on 08/16/2016
Not many doctor's offices have framed photographs of their patients on the wall, but images of Fannie, Agar, Sara, Benik, Patrick, Jesi, Andy, and Segal are displayed prominently in the hallway of the Eugene Kuhns clinic aboard Marine Corps Base QuanticoSegal with his tongue fully extended.
Segal and his colleagues are eight of the 18 military working dogs stationed aboard MCBQ. They receive 24/7 care at the base veterinary clinic, which is staffed by a doctor from the Army Veterinary Corps as well as a civilian veterinarian.
"These dogs do amazing jobs," said Capt. Brittany Beavis, the officer in charge at the clinic. "My job is to keep them healthy so they can do their jobssniffing out a bomb to save a service member's life or preventing bad people from coming on base."
The working dogs visit the clinic for routine check-ups every six months and are seen more frequently as needed, Beavis said. She is also on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for them. But the second part of the clinic's missionand the one that takes up most of its timeis providing veterinary care for animals owned by active duty and retired service members.
"Essentially, if you have commissary privileges, we can see your pet here," Beavis explained.
Beavis, the civilian doctor, and a staff of two veterinary technicians and two receptionists have 3,500 active client files. They are currently down one technician, but when they are fully-staffed, they can schedule 27-30 appointments a day.
"We provide general wellness services: vaccines, routine exams, blood work, microchips," Beavis said. "We can take limited sick calls but we're not equipped to handle emergencies so we refer those to local civilian facilities."
Prices for veterinary services are standardized across the Department of Defense, Beavis said, so a Quantico Marine pays the same for a distemper vaccine as an Okinawa Marine would. In the Northern Virginia area, the clinic's rates tend to be much cheaper than those at civilian facilities.
"We encourage all base residents to get their pets in our system, especially if they're micro-chipped," Beavis said. "We've been able to reunite animals that have been picked up by Good Samaritans with their owners because the pet was in our system."
The majority of her patients are dogs and cats but she also cares for the rabbits and guinea pigs that live at the Quantico Youth Center. And while neither she nor the other doctor is an expert in exotic pets, she'd try not to turn one away.
"If someone showed up with a snake, I'd see what I could do!" Beavis said.
An inevitable part of a veterinarian's job is having to deliver bad news to an owner about a beloved pet's health. Beavis said she copes with this reality by focusing on the illnesses she is able to cure and the cases she is able to turn around.
"The thank-you cards that we get are a big help on the really bad days," she said. "I keep a binder of those and I read them every time I have a sad day at work."
On a recent Tuesday morning, the clinic saw Biggie, a German shepherd/husky mix who came in to get micro-chipped; Maya and Scruffy, two dogs getting blood work done in preparation for a permanent change of station to Hawaii this fall; and Teddy, a five-month-old dachshund getting his puppy shots.
Retired Marine David Barr and his wife Yumiko, who live in Fredericksburg, brought their dogs May and Mako to the clinic for distemper vaccines.
"We've been coming here for, gosh, more than 10 years," Barr said. "We like the doctors, we love Linda [the receptionist]. We get very good service for a reasonable price."