My heartbeat goes to the dogs

Howard Baker - RN BSN

Five years ago this month I started advocating for pacemaker donations from human to animals and I am proud of my small contribution. A few days ago a friend of Hobo the Wonder Dog handed me a small box containing a pacemaker for donation. The timing of the gift marked the fifth anniversary of My Heartbeat Goes to The Dogs. I am honored and humbled to be involved in advocating for such a great program. The latest donation will total three pacemaker donations to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinarian Medicine in five years.

As a nurse I am a strong proponent of organ donation, and I am an organ donor myself. When you see organ recipients and their families, you are able to conceptualize the magnitude that organ donation has on both the donor and the recipient. From a donor’s viewpoint you know that you have made someone else’s life better, stronger, and have made the ultimate humanitarian gift – life. The recipient is often given a new freedom in life and is better able to enjoy the things most of us take for granted.

Our pets become part of our family, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pets can help decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness. Dogs, cats and horses can also suffer from the same kinds of cardiac abnormalities similar to humans and exhibit identical symptoms such as fainting episodes and exercise intolerance.

Being an animal lover, I have a lot of difficulty thinking about animals suffering needlessly or at the hands of neglect. Since I am a proponent of organ donation, it didn’t take long to get my head around the concept. I started thinking about all the people I knew and the patients I have cared for who have pacemakers. Since you cannot donate pacemakers from human to human, the benefits of donation from human to animal became clear. So why not keep the beat going in a beloved pet? It becomes easy to see there are a lot of pacemakers out there that could benefit another life and keep the joy and smiles in the hearts of many.

I think about the service dogs for the blind, military and community that are not easily replaced. A simple life- saving pacemaker could prolong their lives and the lives they serve. Pacemakers have been estimated to prolong a dog’s life by as much as five years. Pacemakers cost around $6,000 making them cost prohibitive for most. It is estimated that 90% of dogs needing pacemakers don’t get them. Manufacturers will donate pacemakers when their expiration dates are nearing; however, these devices are too few to serve all the needs.

Think about all the ways animals enrich our lives; they put smiles on faces old and young alike. Why not will your pacemaker, or donate a loved one’s pacemaker, to extend the life of a beloved pet or service animal? Donating or willing a pacemaker is simple; ask the funeral home to remove the pacemaker and give it to you or a loved one. If they are being cremated the pacemaker has to be removed anyway so funeral homes are experienced in their removal.

Donated pacemakers can benefit horses, cats and dogs, and those who love them. You can make a difference in a defenseless life and the lives they touch.

Hobo is a rescue dog out to make a difference in animal rescue and education. Please follow Hobo on Facebook at Hobo the Wonder Dog or contact him at: [email protected]

Howard Baker


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