You Know the Value of Blood Donations. Ever Think About Dog Donors?
Welcome to the World of Guide Dogs
A little over a decade ago, Lizzie the Lab joined our household. We were to raise her as a guide dog for Guiding Eyes for the Blind (https://www.guidingeyes.org). This is a wonderful outfit deserving of your support.
The plan was for us to raise Lizzie for about a year. We were responsible for her socialization. We were also to take her through an excellent and rigorous training program. Both raisers and dogs completed tests every two weeks. Lizzie came with a puppy raiser’s manual larger than the NY City phone book. If progress was not sustained, the dog went to a new puppy raiser.
It was, of course, daunting to think about having a dog as so much a part of your life for a year and then giving her up. We met regularly with blind people whose lives had had been transformed by having a guide dog. This helped us steel ourselves for the eventual separation. Ah, but fate had different plans.
As it turns out, Lizzie had what would be a minor medical condition for a pet, a recurring ear infection. But this is a disqualifying condition for a guide dog. She was medically released from the program about 10 months into our time together. We then had the option to keep her, as we had raised her. We joyfully changed her status to permanent family member.
Some of you know Lizzie. You can understand why we are so happy to have her with us. You also likely share our feeling that graduation may have been tough for her as a guide dog. She is so affectionate and exuberant; better suited as a pet. We think she knows that, too. She may even have faked the ear infection to get the change of career. She has hardly had an ear problem since joining our family. Just saying….
A New Way to Serve
But we had a problem when Lizzie joined us full time. Volunteering and community service are touchstones in this household. What could Lizzie contribute? She seemed too frisky to be a companion dog or to visit hospitals. Then someone told us about dogs as blood donors. This was something we had never thought about. We had homework to do.
Dogs, of course, need blood for surgery and similar needs. Much of this need is met by a few large organizations that have dogs serving as donors. One of these outfits has recently been in a media battle with PETA. I don’t pretend to know the truth of that conflict, but I do know the need for blood donations is real and lifesaving. To the best of my knowledge, these organizations are good teams that take care of their dogs.
Still, the idea of a dog doing this forever is not a pleasant thought. In our research, we learned about another wonderful (and worthy of support) organization. This is the Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank. Blue Ridge is an all-volunteer donation blood bank serving much of the mid-Atlantic. Find out more about them at https://brvbb.com. We found our volunteer solution for Lizzie with Blue Ridge.
Once screened and accepted into the program, we began a regular donation process. Once about every 6 weeks or so, we would take Lizzie to a local site that served as a visiting base for Blue Ridge. She was greeted and played with, then taken to an exam room. While a volunteer cuddled her and fed her peanut butter constantly, the vet drew the blood. All over in about 10 minutes. The donation process is quick and painless. As a bonus, we received free blood tests twice a year.
Lizzie loved the attention and the peanut butter. She would start dancing in the back of the SUV as we pulled into the parking lot. It was peanut butter time! Lizzie raced to get inside. We often set up her appointment to coincide with one for Yola, a guide dog school classmate. They would then come back to our place for treats and hyper-exuberant play time.
Per medical guidelines, Lizzie retired from the program at seven years. They kept good records. It turns out that Lizzie had helped save the lives of 54 other dogs through her blood donations. That’s probably better than I am doing as a human donor! The photo at the top of this blog is her “retirement tag.”
If your dog might be suitable for donations, you may wish to consider doing this, too. Your veterinarian can tell you more about how all this works and if a donation option exists close to you. You may also check national donation center listings. One such list is at:
Now, go play with your pet and reflect on how lucky you are to have them in your life.
Lizzie (L) and Yola (R) in their donation days
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