About eight years ago, a very special dog came into our lives – and the lives of many others. We signed up with Guiding Eyes for the Blind to be Puppy Raisers. Our task was to spend a year with a puppy, providing socialization, some basic training, and preparing the dog to go on to advanced training before joining a blind person to be a life team. It’s difficult to think about having a dog in your life for a year and then giving her up, but this was important work that could change someone’s life, and the program was really well done, so off we went. Elizabeth, a beautiful black Labrador retriever, was soon a part of our household. Blind people came to talk to our class on several occasions, emphasizing what a powerful service this was for them.
About three-fourths of the way through our scheduled time together, Elizabeth had a third recurrence of an ear infection, which was a minor problem, but it took her out of the program, as guide dogs cannot have any lingering medical issues. We were offered the opportunity to keep Elizabeth as a pet. We accepted with delight and Lizzie, as she had become known to us, became a permanent part of our family. Today, she pretty well rules the roost around here.
Our time with Lizzie began with the idea of service and so we looked for other ways she could serve. She is pretty large as Labs go and was a bit too rambunctious as a youngster to be a hospital visitation dog. Fortunately, someone told us about the dog blood donation program – we found Lizzie’s service opportunity.
Like most people, we had never heard of dog blood donation, but we learned that there is more than one type of dog blood and a blood supply is needed for surgeries, just as for people. In some places, dogs are raised just to be blood donors, a grim sounding life, and so the Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank, a wonderful organization that runs its programs on the strength of volunteers and donations, began a voluntary blood donation program. We signed up with Lizzie.
For about seven years, Lizzie and her good friend Yola (a yellow lab who also had a career change from the guide dog route) would go to the Old Towne Pet Resort in Springfield about every six weeks to donate. They loved it! Upon arrival, they were warmly greeted by Dr. Valery Latchsorce and Veterinary Specialist Chris Old, who played with them a bit, then settled in with Chris who would hold them (literally spoon with them on a table), while the veterinarian constantly fed them peanut butter as a quick and painless blood draw was completed. If you know Labs, you know the combination of constant attention and food was irresistible. Both dogs went into happy fits whenever we pulled into that parking area.
Lizzie and Yola both celebrated their eighth birthdays in June, which means they have retired from the donor program. During their time of service, Lizzie and Yola each helped over 50 dogs by providing blood for surgeries. It was a great run and we are all glad to have participated.
If you would like to know more about these fine organizations and investigate some of the many ways you might be able to contribute, check out The Blue Ridge Veterinary Blood Bank at www.brvbb.com and Guiding Eyes for the Blind at www.guidingeyes.org.
— William R. Clontz