Steve, a golden-auburn rescue Greyhound, had never donated blood before. He’d never before been to the VCA-NWVS Critical Care Blood Bank. He didn’t know he was a model blood donor dog — 1-6 years old, over 50 pounds, calm demeanor, and, had he been female, never bred. All Steve knew was that he was in a small room with four people, three of whom were strangers, and it seemed something was going down. It is said that Greyhounds have a “dignified sense of duty.” Steve seemed to know that his job was to relax and place his trust in Dr. Heidi Houchen.
His trust was in good hands.
As Steve was lifted and gently placed on his side on the table he didn’t twitch a muscle. While the vet tech shaved a small patch of fur, Dr. Houchen gently massaged Steve’s neck and shoulders, speaking in comforting tones. The dog appeared mildly blissful. Who doesn’t appreciate a nap and a back rub in the middle of the day? As the process continued and a pint of blood drawn, Dr. Heidi discussed the ongoing need for the valuable commodity.
A link below will take you to the NWVS Critical Care Blood Bank website where you can learn how your dog can become a donor — aka hero. When talking to your dog about becoming a donor, be sure and let him or her know that treats are involved.
Just as Steve the donor dog quickly took to the calm hands of Dr. Heidi, humans on donor visits also tend to develop an immediate appreciation (if not affection) for the doctor’s wit, knowledge, and ability to reassure both pets and people.
Dr. Heidi, known and loved by many for her sparkling facets that anywhere else might be considered conflicting — her everyday manner exudes joy and humor, marked by shining eyes and a broad dimpled smile, juxtaposed with a laser seriousness about the things to which she is committed. One of these things is the canine blood donor program she heads up at Northwest Veterinary Specialists in Clackamas, Oregon. Heidi brings to her position over 20 years’ veterinary experience, including many in the ER. “It was a privilege working with ER patients,” says Heidi. “You live for the ones who make it.”
Dr. Heidi is also serious about her family. As much as she loved the ER, when the evening and weekend hours began to conflict with family, career adjustments were made. Dr. Mom now manages the blood donor program with an eye toward one day returning to the demands and joys of ER practice. Her belief — “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time.”
Heidi lives in SW Washington with her husband of 24 years, an equine veterinarian who is allergic to horses, along with two kids, two dogs, six cats and one hamster. At one point during our conversation the tone took a somber turn — we paused for a moment of respectful memoriam to a no-longer-with-us Houchen pet — Yabi, a freshwater blue lobster that has gone to his/her final resting place under the sea. Farewell, sweet Yabi.
Every interview should include a Barbara Walters moment, which is why I found myself asking the good doctor, “If you were a dog what dog would you be? Heidi smiled and paused, saying it was tempting to say Border Collie, but then settled on Golden Retriever. Why? I asked. Because, she replied, laughing and shaking her signature head of lush blonde hair. “I have a tendency to shed and I like my food a lot.”
Besides the shedding what other interesting tidbit might we have to share about the vet with the big smile and even bigger heart? Ready? She’s not on Facebook! You read it here, you read it right. Shocking, indeed. Explains our good doctor: “There’s no room, and there’s no time for it. My time belongs to my family and kids.”
When asked about a favorite shoe, Dr. Heidi produced the photo shown. The proud mother of a 16-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, this photo is representative of the activities of a busy happy family where mom is eagerly available and involved in all activities, especially those involving her daughter’s catching cleats and her son’s ballet shoes. These shoes represent maternal joy and pride. “When these shoes come out it means I get to go watch my kids.”
Hurry up everyone! We’re late for practice!
For additional information on the blood donor program visit http://www.vcaspecialtyvets.com/northwest-veterinary-specialists
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance, this year Dec. 9th at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.