TULSA -- Blood donations can save a life, and not just a human's.
A critical need for blood exists for people's four-legged friends, so a woman is using her unusual nonprofit to make sure that their blood is never in short supply.
Tracy Hendrickson started the Companion Pets Blood Bank about 30 years ago. During that time, she has collected, stored and passed out donations of dog blood to veterinarians' offices and animal hospitals as the only pet blood bank in the state.
"I get to play hero a lot," Hendrickson said, "rushing around town delivering blood units (and) saving dogs' lives."
Her three-year-old boxer, Mitchell, is one of more than 100 dogs that regularly donates to her blood bank. The process to draw blood is pretty painless, she said. At a recent appointment, the needle going in barely fazes Mitchell, as someone sits next to him rubbing his temples. The massage is followed by the promise of a treat, just like the snacks that await any human who donates blood.
"They get so relaxed," Hendrickson said about the dogs. "They almost fall asleep not because I take blood out of their bodies. They just are so relaxed."
Dr. Lauren Johnson, Mitchell's veterinarian at Hammond Animal Hospital, said one donation can go a long way to help animals in her care.
"We like to have a storage of blood for situations where we have a crisis," Dr. Johnson said, "like if there's an actual accident or a bleed out. We also use blood for things like cancer or autoimmune diseases."
"Sometimes that blood donation is the lifeline for another dog in a crisis-type situation," she added, "so, yeah, they're ultimately a hero."
Not every dog can donate blood, though, Hendrickson said. She has specifications regarding behavior, age, health and weight
"(Dogs have to be) between one and seven years old," she said. "They have to do a sit and stay, probably for about five minutes, getting loved on and lots of treats afterwards. (They have to be) up-to-date on shots, on heart worm preventative and all-around good general health."
She said it's also preferable for any donors to weigh about 50 pounds.
To learn more about the Companion Pets Blood Bank, click here.