Every day, military working dogs work with their handlers to keep Joint Base San Antonio safe, but behind the scenes, a team of veterinarians make sure these K-9s are healthy enough to take a bite out of crime.
Growing up, Capt. (Dr.) Daniela Roberts, South Texas Veterinary Services branch chief, always had a feeling she wanted to be a veterinarian.
“I always loved science, and as I went through high school I decided I wanted to have a medical job," Roberts said. “Eventually I combined my love of animals with the medical field. It was something I was really drawn to. Every day is different and I never do the same thing twice.”
As a military veterinarian, Roberts provides care to military working dogs and horses at JBSA and other military installations across the South Texas region.
“There are a lot of factors that culminated my decision to commission as a military veterinarian, but my biggest driving force was the ability to work with military working dogs,” Roberts said. “They are incredibly talented, and it’s rewarding to work with them. They are happiest when they are working, and they do an amazing job at keeping people safe. It’s great to be able to contribute to that.”
On average the JBSA-Randolph Veterinary Clinic sees 16-20 animals a day. A majority of the visits are for vaccinations and wellness checks.
“People are surprised to learn there are veterinarians in the military and I think that’s a shame because I think I have the best job,” Roberts said. “It’s amazing being able to work with these working dogs. They are highly trained professionals and they really are heroes. They save the lives of service members on a daily basis. For me to be able to take part in that mission and make sure those dogs are healthy and able to do their job is an amazing thing.”
Another aspect of Roberts’ job is taking care of privately owned pets at JBSA-Randolph’s veterinary clinic.
“Taking care of pets helps us keep our skills and makes sure we are ready to take care of military working dogs and horses here,” she said. “We need to stay mission ready in case we deploy or need to respond to an emergency.”
Roberts said the most satisfying part of the job is when you can take a sick animal and make it feel a lot better.
“I had one particular case that really stuck out to me and solidified what I wanted to do in this job,” she said. “An owner noticed their pet wasn’t able to go outside to use the bathroom, and was going to the bathroom in the house all the time. We did an exam and found out their dog was suffering from severe arthritis. We treated the arthritis and the pet had a much better quality of life for several years after. It was amazing to be able to work through that and help improve the quality of life for that pet and also for the owner.”