I was mightily impressed with the story of nine-year-old Misty, a clever and enterprising border collie who has more or less turned herself into a full-time PA at the Burlington Stone quarry in Cumbria, where her owner, Elaine Prickett works.
Nine-year-old Misty greets lorry drivers when they arrive at the quarry, collects their weighbridge tickets and hands them over to a human member of staff. She does the same with credit cards, saving lorry drivers a walk to the office by picking them up in her mouth, delivering them to the office to be processed and then taking them back to their owner.
I don’t like to make comparisons with Doughnut, our retired racing greyhound, but I must say I did give him a bit of a sideways look after reading about Misty’s career. The only thing he’d managed to pick up and process in the last 24 hours was the chicken from Cleo’s curry – and she wasn’t impressed.
Somehow, I don’t think Doughnut’s up to admin work – he still struggles with the concept of “fetch” – and although he has had a glittering career as a professional racer, I think his working days are over. Personality-wise he’s more of a cat than a dog. He doesn’t jump up when anyone arrives, he sleeps every minute he can, and he’s so picky about his food that he rejects all the pale brown square pellets from his dried food. He leaves them all neatly separated into a pile, like a sulky rock star refusing blue M&Ms.
But, my ears did prick up the other night when Radio 4 reported the dire shortage of dog blood donors. Vets are so short of doggy donors they are having to put off operations for some of their patients. Now some dogs are better at being blood donors than others, and which breed comes out top when it comes to being good at giving blood? Greyhounds! Apparently it’s because they tend to have a negative blood group that can be used for lots of different dogs, but I bet part of it is because vets will have no trouble locating a vein in their skinny little limbs. Imagine trying to get a needle into a husky? I was slightly disappointed that bloodhounds didn’t get a mention – you’d think they’d be a natural.
So Doughnut’s racing days may be over, but he might still be able to get his pulse racing and do his bit for his fellow hound by becoming a blood donor. According to Pet Blood Bank, the charity that organises the donations, it only takes ten minutes for the actual transfusion, dogs are given an anaesthetic cream so they don’t really feel it and just like humans who feel right as rain after cup of tea and a custard cream, doggy donors are back on their paws after a packet of doggy treats and an hour’s snooze.
It’s also very efficient – every donor session provides enough blood to save the lives of up to four other dogs. I expect that varies a bit either way depending on whether the patient is a St Bernard or a chihuahua. I got quite excited and checked out the http://www.petbloodbankuk.org/ website to see when I could take Doughnut in. I wondered whether we’d have to pop along to the community centre or maybe they’d have a mobile unit parked outside Battersea Dogs’ Home. I was already swanking about the “be nice to me I gave blood today” sticker he’d be able to show off in the park later.
But sadly, although he is definitely the right breed to donate (boxers and Dobermann pinschers are also top donators too, apparently, but no mention of Yorkshire terriers or toy poodles…) but closer reading revealed an age limit. At 12 Doughnut is too long in the tooth to donate and he is also ruled out because he takes too many drugs – always a worry with blood donation.
Meanwhile I haven’t ruled out another way of putting him back to work. His calm and loving nature make him an ideal candidate for becoming a Therapet, a brilliant scheme organised by the Canine Concern Scotland Trust that enables dogs and cats and the occasional rabbit to visit patients in hospital or care homes. The arrival of a suitably sociable pet helps comfort patients who miss their own pets or just fancy a dog or cat to stroke and has been shown to help relieve stress and reduce blood pressure. Therapets are also in demand at universities during exam season where they provide stressed-out students with a calming and non-judgemental companion. Doughnut would be perfect for that – he’s spent the last three months being the calm eye in the storm for us during three sets of exams. I shall be dusting off his CV and making enquiries. Now, who do I have to talk to get him a top internship?
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn