A Pawdicure for a Prince

Walking by his office yesterday, it was hard to escape Big Al’s demanding gaze. A bite of boiled chicken did little to quell his ire towards me, as we are nearly halfway through May and I have not yet indulged our blog readership with photos of the self-proclaimed Prince of Encina. The way the fluorescent lights hit his shiny coat reminded me of a day last summer when I decided to take Alex’s good looks to the next level. Upon finding pink nail polish in an exam room drawer (used as a fur-marking device), I knew that it was time for Big Al to have the spa day he had long deserved. In his office he gracefully lent me each paw, looking down his nose at me like the servant I am to him. After the pawdicure was complete, he graciously posed for our cameras.

Looking This Good is a Full-Time Job

His father, Dr. Nurre, failed to notice the pretty polish, and had to be directed to Alex’s new look. The nail lacquer remained in place until it work off a week or so later, but not before a man stopped the Nurres on a hike to admire their “manly” dog. Noting Big Al’s impressive size, the man complimented Dr. Nurre on his brutish beast, but as his gaze drifted to my handiwork, his tone changed. Some people just don’t understand that Big Al’s handsome style crosses all boundaries of gender and breed.

Pink is Definitely His Color

Big Al's Glamour Shot

Over the Shoulder Smoulder

There was apparently some confusion when Big Al agreed to star in his very own blog post. You see, Alex recently became a big brother to a child of the human variety, and he was under the impression that this blog would be solely about him…just like a baby blog. He has grown to be quite the doggy-diva since becoming an Internet sensation as our premier blood donor. In order to appease him, I have agreed to post a glamour shot of Big Al from time to time just to keep the world apprised of his good looks. So without further adieu, feast your eyes on what I call Alex’s Over the Shoulder Smoulder (patent pending). This alluring stare has been known to garner treats and hearts alike from passerby of Encina’s A-Ward, also known as Tommy’s Ward, also known as Alex’s office.

Big Al, Lifesaver Extraordinaire

Big Al Enjoying a Day Off in the Sunshine

Many people are surprised to see the list of animal blood donors on the board listing our staff members in the Encina lobby. Blood donation just seems so human I suppose, most of us associate it with the emergency room antics of doctors that we see on TV. What many of our clients don’t realize is that with so many specialists on our team, we see a lot of very sick animals that often go through dramatic shifts in health while staying with us. Some of the reasons why we do blood transfusions at Encina include treatments for low platelet count, complications from disease, and blood clotting disorders.

Included in our blood donor list is our most prolific giver of blood, Alex P. Nurre, to whom I affectionately refer as “Big Al”. Alex was rescued by Dr. Peter Nurre, one of our hospital’s co-owners, in 2002 at the age of 1 ½ from the San Francisco SPCA. It was puppy love at first sight for Dr. Nurre, but Mrs. Nurre (a.k.a. Dr. Jenifer McBride, also a talented veterinarian) wasn’t so sure. She was looking for a dog to scare off potential attackers during her nightly runs, and at a very slim 60 pounds Alex wasn’t very intimidating. Eventually Dr. Nurre sold the Missus on Alex’s sleek black physique, and home they went.

Flash forward to today, and Alex weighs in at an impressive 85 pounds (hence the nickname, “Big Al”). The black and white charmer graces us with his presence every day that Dr. Nurre works, and has saved many lives just by being a great blood donor candidate that is readily available. What makes a great donor, you ask? A calm temperament and the right blood type, and according to Alex, his good looks don’t hurt either. There are over a dozen blood group types in canines, and we use a cross-matching kit to determine if a donor’s blood is safe to give to a potential blood transfusion recipient. Alex happens to have a type of blood that does not tend to cause a strong antibody response, in which the patient’s existing blood cells react to and destroy the transfused blood cells, which can be problematic for an already sick dog.

I recently asked Dr. Nurre to tell me the story of Alex’s best “save.” It was hard to narrow it down to one, but about a year ago we had an emergency case in which a dog was rushed in on the brink of death, bleeding into her chest from a necrotic (dead) lung lobe. We had no time to thaw frozen blood, but thankfully Big Al was “working” that day. We were able to draw a pint of blood from him without sedation, which was probably the difference between life and death because the extra time needed to sedate a donor may have been deadly for the critical patient. When we rushed the patient into surgery she still had a pulse (just barely) thanks to Alex’s donation. Dr. Koehler opened her up to find that she had several liters of blood in her chest cavity. He clamped the “bleeder,” removed the problematic lung, and the patient went home the next day. Big Al got an extra meal for his troubles, and we added another tally to his list of lives saved.