The Fort Hood Veterinary Center cares for man’s furriest of friends in service to the installation and the Soldiers who serve.
The 5,900 square foot facility cares for roughly 9,000 animals annually, including the 30 equine that serve in the 1st Cavalry Division’s Horse Cav. Detachment and 40 military working dogs on the installation.
“I enjoy being around animals, especially the working dogs,” Sgt. Bianca Duran, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the facility, said. “Their job is to help take care of Soldiers lives, so by taking care of them, we’re helping take care of Soldiers as well.”
Duran said the veterinary facility offers bloodwork screenings, sick calls for things like ear infections, and wellness exams, which include vaccinations and heartworm tests. They can also spay, neuter and do dental work.
“The doctor will explain it in the exam room if they do not offer a service and will refer them to someone,” Duran added. “Anything we can’t do, we refer them.”
The clinic includes five exam rooms, a separate exam room for military working dogs, an operating room, lab, pharmacy and office space.
“We have a liaison who works just with the working dogs and we work with the 1st Cavalry Division horses as well,” Duran explained. “If they have an emergency, we have a number for them to call and we go out there.”
Capt. Wendy Evans, the officer-in-charge of the Fort Hood Veterinary Center, said the clinic provides wellness exams for the equine at the horse detachment on a monthly basis. She said the exams include annual shots, deworming and other preventative care, as well as any sick calls.
“We go out and check the facility and make sure there is adequate feed and that all the conditions for the animals are safe,” Evans said. “And we also do that for any of the schools that have rabbits and fish.”
The center remains very busy throughout the year. On top of their normal exams, they perform more than 300 surgeries per year. Three to four surgeries are performed twice a week, depending on emergencies.
“We have more than just animal health in our realm,” Evans said. “We also take care of all the human food protection on post.”
The Fort Hood Veterinary Center is responsible for auditing all the food that comes through the commissaries, shoppettes and dining facilities on the installation. Evans said they make sure all the preventative health controls are in place and also ensure the food is safe for consumption.
The facility is operated by 20 Soldiers and civilians who care about the well-being of animals, including Sgt. Chantel Mordenti, who said her former duty station assigned her to an engineering brigade, so she did not receive any experience until she came to Fort Hood. Like most of the Soldiers who work as veterinary technicians, she said she wanted to work in the veterinary field so she could care for the military working dogs.
“Being here is very different, but rewarding because I get hands-on experience with animals,” Mordenti said. “It’s a joy to work with military working dogs.”
Unfortunately, animals have a short lifespan. While trying to care for some ill kittens, Duran and Mordenti shared that the most difficult part of their job is losing a pet. After caring for and becoming attached to pets, even if it’s not their own, it is difficult when that lifespan is cut short.
“It’s very sad because the owner is losing a pet, but you’re losing a pet as well,” Duran said.
“You have to put on a face because not everybody can be breaking down,” Mordenti added. “I think it’s harder to see the owners get so emotional, because they’re like a family member. It’s really hard with the military working dogs, because unfortunately, we lose those too. It’s difficult to see the handler, who we work with all the time, get upset.”
Being able to save lives makes the job worth it in the long run. Evans said that she loves being a veterinarian because it provides her the opportunity to work with both people and animals and make a difference in their lives.
“I wanted this job to work with the military working dogs, but in general I don’t see myself doing anything but providing veterinary care,” she said, adding that the best part of her job is being able “to work with the working dogs, who help keep our Soldiers safe.”
The Fort Hood Veterinary Center is available to active duty or retired personnel only. The facility is located at Building 4909 on Engineer Drive, across from the Fort Hood Stray Animal Facility. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For appointments, call 254-287-6719.