By Janie Southard
COLDWATER -- Suzi Q. was an abused puppy when she came to the County Animal Clinic seven years ago. She is still there, but now she is a valued employee.
Veterinarian Ronald Anders keeps Suzi as an office pal and a blood donor dog who has been called into action about a dozen times during the past few years.
She is a big, golden mix of Akita, Chow and Shar-pei giving her a wrinkly, worried face and a fluffy coat. She is nosy and likes to size up the folks coming in the office right away. Once her curiosity is satisfied, she wanders off but peeks around the door frequently just to keep tabs on visitors.
Anders said Suzi's owners came to his office when the dog was about 6 weeks old saying she had been hit by a truck. Her injuries were not consistent with that story, but were consistent with being severely kicked and/or thrown. Plus she was mean and bit anyone near enough to bite.
"I think there may have been some drug activity in the house, and they were training her to be mean," Anders speculated, adding aggression is a learned behavior. "It took several months, but finally we were able to open her mouth to give her medication." She has come a long way and has benefited from kindness as well as obedience training, making her a pleasant friend as well as a relaxed blood donor.
"Suzi's blood has been typed, and we know she is a universal donor," Anders told The Daily Standard at his clinic last week, explaining further that there are about 11 blood types in dogs.
According to an Internet site, canine blood groups were first known in 1910 shortly after the discovery that human blood could be typed.
A patient dog is almost a must because the process takes from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much blood is drawn from the dog's jugular vein. The usual draw is one to two pints.
Most people wince when Anders mentions the draw from the jugular vein, but it is actually more comfortable for dogs compared with drawing from the leg.
Anders also has a few clients whose dogs are available as blood donors if necessary, a practice more typical in larger cities. Canine donors must be healthy with no history of metabolic or heart disease or seizures. They must be between 1 and 7 years old and weigh more than 50 pounds and take no medications except heartworm and parasite preventatives.
They need to have a good temperament, be neutered and have never given birth, plus have a jugular vein that is easily seen.
For their trouble, these dog owners can expect free exams for their animals and basic medications.
In a mock demonstration Wednesday, Suzi steps on a stainless steel examination table that then is raised about three feet from the ground. She hops right on, although she seems a little nervous. Anders explains she worries about wearing a leash and is probably leery of the stranger bearing a camera in the room.
"She's almost always completely comfortable when we're taking blood. She sits or lays down on the table. She's used to the procedure," Anders said.
Dogs only can donate to dogs, the same with cats. Although it is safe to donate from one breed to another, some dog owners insist their dog's blood donor be of the same breed. Those folks are usually breeders or owners who show their dogs in competition.
Owners of purebred, American Kennel Club registered dogs are finicky about everything pertaining to their animals not only because they represent a large investment of time and money, but because they love the breed and want to keep it as pure as possible.
Demonstration over, Suzi looks expectantly at the doctor, perhaps for an "atta girl" but, of course, a cookie would do.