Rescued dog gives life-saving blood
Updated: April 19, 2012, 06:47
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LAKE FOREST -- A gray and white pit bull quietly lay in the arms of a veterinary technician while a large needle drained nearly half a liter of blood from his jugular vein.
His blood donation took about 15 minutes, and all the while, the 2-year-old dog was calm. His tail wagged when he was unhooked from the needle and led back to his kennel at the Pet Rescue Center, a nonprofit group that had rescued him just a couple of weeks before.
Sammy, who was found in late February covered with massive scars and fresh wounds and likely used as a bait dog, had been taken to the rescue group for surgery.
A few weeks later, he was the one who helped save another dog when Dr. Matthew Wheaton at the Alicia Pet Care Center realized he was the perfect candidate to give blood to another rescued dog that had ingested rat poison and was bleeding out.
The only way to save the 6-month-old puppy named Piper was a blood transfusion, Wheaton said. Piper had been taken to the Mission Viejo Animal Shelter when a woman found the dog bleeding in a shopping center.
"I immediately thought of Sammy because he is a big guy that had recovered from his recent injuries, and I wanted to give him the opportunity to pay it forward," Matthew Wheaton said. "We performed a crossmatch procedure to ensure that Piper would accept Sammy's blood without any problems, which takes about an hour of specialized testing for compatibility. The large amount of blood was plenty of normal blood to fix Piper's issue, and he immediately showed us that he was feeling better. About an hour into the transfusion, Piper started to act like a happy puppy again."
Since the transfusion, Piper, a frisky black and white pit bull and Labrador mix rescued by the Dedicated Animal Welfare Group, a nonprofit fundraising group connected the Mission Viejo Animal Shelter, has recovered and found new owners.
Sammy is being cared for volunteers at the PRC. Volunteers there are hopeful an event this weekend at Pittsford Park in Lake Forest might bring some interested families. Through donations that helped save Sammy, the rescue group has also been able to pay for training, something the formerly frightened and submissive dog needed.
Oliver and Blythe Wheaton, co-founders of the PRC, said his submissive behavior and bloodied body seem to indicate he was used to train fighting dogs. Even with all his abuse, they say, he is a friendly dog and is submissive to even the smallest dogs that are part of the rescue family.
"He is a 100 percent family dog," Casey Oliver, director of operations for the pet rescue group said. "He's very friendly and outgoing and is great with kids."
The rescue group Sunday will hold its first Happy Tails Reunion. In about four years, the group has saved more than 450 dogs and cats from certain death at shelters throughout the state. Although the number seems successful, Blythe Wheaton said there is much to do in educating people about adopting rescue animals.
"The PRC started as a small idea but has blossomed into a force to be reckoned with because we have support in the rescue world, the local communities and shelters," she said. "But the shelter statistics are grim with only 50 percent being adopted. The idea of adoption is well-received but there is still a lot of stigma the public has about rescues and a worry about animals being damaged goods. That's what we have to overcome.
"A lot of the animals in shelters were someone's pet and were loved and cared for," she said. "But sometimes fate intervenes and some people are left with no option but to surrender their animals to a shelter."
By ERIKA I. RITCHIETHE
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER