Air Force Featured Stories

Orthotic tech helps military working dog walk again

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Ellis
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
Army Maj. Andrea Henderson, the veterinarian at the Department of Defense Holland Military Working Dog (MWD) Hospital here, first started treating SStash last October. A degenerative disease had led to one of SStash's hind legs needing surgery.

"He's done so much for us and for his country, it's the least we can do," Henderson said.

Before being injured, SStash worked as a patrol dog providing security at Osan Air Base, South Korea, ensuring the safety of its more than 7,000 personnel. Throughout his seven-year career, he also provided personal security for various working dog handlers, making him a vital asset to the 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.

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 SStash's recovery.

Master Sgt. Sean McClintock, the NCO in charge of the 59th MDW Orthotic Lab, took on the challenge of modifying the brace.

Although the request was the first of its kind for the Orthotic Lab, McClintock used his expertise to create a prototype harness to stabilize the brace. At his previous station in Japan, McClintock had successfully modified a brace for a cat.

SStash developed an infection after his first surgery, not long after his arrival. The originally unmodified brace kept slipping, which damaged his wounds and prolonged his recovery.

Once the wounds healed enough, McClintock outfitted SStash’s 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," McClintock said. "Hopefully it will help him to start walking again, which will help his recovery tremendously."

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,” Henderson said. “Without the level of treatment that we provide, a lot of dogs wouldn't make it. At least now he'll be able to relax and enjoy retirement."