Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Local dogs to donate for a cause

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Canines will show a lot of heart on Valentine’s Day by giving blood so other dogs can be helped in their time of need.

About 30 pooches are signed up for Mount Airy Animal Hospital’s first blood drive on Feb. 14, said Tova Bopp, head veterinary technician for the hospital and blood drive coordinator.

‘‘It’s exciting,” Bopp said.

Blood will be drawn from the jugular vein in the neck, because it is large and will give a good amount of blood in a short period of time, she said.

Although dogs can safely donate every three weeks, the animal hospital will hold blood drives every seven weeks, Bopp said.

Dogs 55 pounds and over will have about one unit of blood drawn, while smaller dogs will give about half of a unit, she said.

The dogs will be rewarded for their efforts with cookies and a Valentine’s Day-inspired bandana, said Theresa Connelly, events coordinator for the Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank — the organization that will conduct the drive and store the blood.

It also ships the blood products across the country for emergency hospitals to stock their supply or for hospitals that need blood for a transfusion, Connelly said.

‘‘We do just about every medical procedure in humans in veterinary medicine as well,” Connelly said. ‘‘You’ll find it all in the veterinary medicine world.”

Dr. Ann Schneider, founder of the Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank, and a technician from the blood bank will spend the day of the drive in Mount Airy, Connelly said. They will see dogs in one of the hospital’s exam rooms that is easily accessible from the waiting room.

Bopp said the hospital will remain open to its clients on the days that they are hosting blood drives.

Connelly said Mount Airy Animal Hospital approached Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank about becoming a site, and the blood bank gave information to the hospital to handout to see if there was an interest in the community.

In less than one month, 22 dogs were signed up to participate.

‘‘I was completely blown away,” Connelly said. ‘‘There was definitely some interest. It happened so fast.”

Having ‘‘a willing bunch of healthy, happy canines” is important, she said.

Staff is not above bribing the dogs with cookies and belly rubs in order to coax them into donating, but Connelly said it doesn’t always work. ‘‘The person has great intentions, but the dog says, ‘Hey, I like your cookies, but I don’t want you to pick me up and put me on a table.’”

Sometimes the first blood drive session is used as a ‘‘greet and meet” where the dogs, their owners and blood bank staff can get used to each other, Connelly said.

Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank looks forward to adding Mount Airy Animal Hospital to its roster of about 25 donor sites in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, Connelly said. ‘‘It’ll be fun. It’s exciting that they’re so excited.”