GROTON, Conn. – At the New London Veterinary Treatment Facility onboard Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London, military working dogs and the beloved pets of military members, retirees and families alike are kept healthy and happy.
Unique among SUBASE New London tenant commands, the veterinary facility is run by the U.S. Army, which provides veterinarians to all branches of the military, much the way the Navy supplies medical personnel to the Marine Corps.
“We are a veterinary treatment facility, which is the second highest level of veterinary centers the U.S. Army offers,” said Capt. Laura Nelson, officer in charge of the facility. “It means we can see anything from sick calls to surgeries, radiographs, basic ultrasounds. And then we sign international health certificates without endorsement of state veterinarians. We can save people up to $300 in the process of doing international health certificates.”
Nelson escorted a gentleman named Francis Jaboury and his dog, Coco, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, into an examination room and put her stethoscope to Coco’s belly checking his vitals while the dog panted cheerfully.
“All these people transferring here have no idea about this clinic,” said Jaboury. “I have been coming here for 15 years! Use the base veterinarian. They’re great people and it’s 40 to 60 percent cheaper than places off base.”
Across the hallway in another exam room, Spc. Chelsey Justice was getting her puppy, Winry, her first shots. Despite being only 11 weeks old, Winry was already a large dog filled with energy. Holding her tightly so Dr. John Turco, one of the facility’s civilian personnel, could inspect her, Justice spoke about her puppy.
“She’s an Australian Sheepdog,” said Justice. “I got her when I was stationed down in Texas. They’re everywhere down there. She loves peanut butter, so we’re going to put some peanut butter on the table so she’ll be too busy licking that to notice she’s getting her shots.”
Justice put some peanut butter on a tongue depressor and smeared the dollop onto the metal exam table. Eyes wild with excitement, Winry plopped down, all four legs spread, and eagerly lapped the treat up.
“She does this all the time at home,” said Justice. “She just sploots across the floor!”
Turco came in and gave Winry her shots. The puppy never noticed she was being pricked as she eagerly licked up the tasty treat from the surface of the table.
“My main job is to tend to privately owned animals of active duty and retired military, as well as being a backup for military working dogs,” said Turco. “A typical day is not always typical. We can foster many different phone calls from clients with animals who are sick and vomiting to just regular preventative maintenance for dogs and cats.”
After the shots were administered and the peanut butter was gone, Winry looked up at Justice and Turco, sniffing the air and hungry for more.
“We don’t even have to clean the table now,” said Turco with a laugh.
The treatment facility is open to anyone with base access and provides all the services a typical veterinary clinic would offer, and cheaper.
“I always say if you can go to the Branch Health Clinic, you can come here,” said Nelson. “Active duty, national guard, reservist, anybody who is retired or a dependent can bring their pets to this clinic. We save people 40 to 60 percent of what they would have spent at a civilian clinic. For example, our surgery suite should be open by the end of the calendar year and I can neuter or spay for half the price. We sell over the counter flea and tick prevention, heartworm prevention, we have all your basic medications, including pain management for your older creatures who have arthritis.”
The New London Veterinary Treatment Facility is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on the first Friday and last working day of every month, when it is open from 8 a.m. to noon. The clinic is located next to the base commissary on Grayling Ave. For more information, call 860-694-4291 or go online to https://www.facebook.com/NLONVTF/.