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Dentist’s best friend: Saint Francis Service Dog in training receives rare root canal

Dog needed operation on tooth for service work

ROANOKE, Va. – A Southwest Virginia dentist operated on a very unusual patient on Friday.

Walker the labrador retriever received a root canal in preparation for his work as a Saint Francis Service Dog.

The procedure is rare, but Saint Francis Service Dogs executive director Caball Youell said it was essential to Walker’s future career.

“His tooth was starting to cause him problems," Youell said. "He needs to be able to pick things up comfortably, carry things for someone, or retrieve items.”

Walker got his canine tooth repaired at the Roanoke Animal Hospital, but none of the veterinarians there had the capacity to treat a root canal.

“We needed some special equipment and materials to do the root canal, and the dental community stepped up," said Dr. Mark Finkler of Roanoke Animal Hospital.

Instead, Dr. Grant Throckmorton of Wythe Family Dentistry drove an hour from Wytheville to operate on Walker in Roanoke.

“The tooth is about twice as long as you’ll ever see a human tooth," Throckmorton said. "They’re just massive. Some of my instruments don’t even work on dog teeth.”

The procedure went well, and Throckmorton finished the job in about an hour.

Youell said she is in the process of finding Walker’s permanent home, and she’s relieved his tooth will no longer cause him trouble.

“He’s going to want to go pick things up and bring them to you," Youell said. "Whenever you see Walker, he looks around and says, ‘what present can I bring you?’”


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