We are huge dog lovers here at HELLO! and just recently we met one very special canine friend, a Great Dane named Bear.
Two-year-old Bear lives in Molesey, Surrey, and is one amazing dog. Not only does he have the sweetest, most chilled-out temperament, but he also donates blood to save the lives of other dogs and he's just started work as a Therapy Dog.
WATCH: The Queen and her children play with their dogs
Earlier this year, Bear gave blood for the first time and helped save the life of a seven-year-old Miniature Dachshund called Otto.
Bear's mum Emma Kite explained: "Normally dogs have to be sedated before giving blood, but they didn't need to sedate Bear because he was so calm and well behaved. I was so proud."
Below, Emma tells us all about her gorgeous Great Dane and the amazing work he does…
Getting a Great Dane puppy
Emma told HELLO!: "I already had two German Shorthaired Pointers and I wasn't looking for a third dog, but I was watching Dogs Behaving Badly on the TV and they had a Great Dane on, and I've always wanted one. I looked online and found there was a litter nearby my town, so I rang the breeder.
"When I first saw Bear, he was two weeks old. I had to pick one out of five puppies that were left out of a litter of 11. I'd already decided that if going for a giant breed, the dog had to be laid back and chilled out – I didn't want a 60kg dog who was a handful.
A newborn puppy Bear
"The puppies were only two weeks old so you can't see much of their character at that age, so I did the test where you put the puppies on their backs. A puppy that's independent and high energy tends to wiggle and squirm, but if a puppy relaxes, flops and is happy, they tend to be easier to please, laid back and trusting.
"I did that test and Bear relaxed, so we went with him. I also watched him with the other puppies and he was the quiet, chilled one in the pack."
Bear growing up!
Being mum to Bear
"I love owning a Great Dane and they aren't a lot of work. Everyone always says, 'You must have a massive house!' but I have a two bedroom maisonette with a garden.
"Great Danes are like Greyhounds. They need minimal exercise and they sleep a lot. He gets two walks a day, morning and afternoon but the rest of the day he doesn't move."
The loveable Bear
"If the doorbell rings, he doesn't get off the sofa. I have to bring his dinner to the sofa… he gets off, eats it, and gets back on the sofa. Then I drag him out for a wee before I go to bed.
"You literally don't know you've got him other than the fact there's not much space on the sofa! Whereas my Pointers follow me everywhere. Great Danes are known for being very lazy."
Giving blood for the first time
"I knew dogs giving blood was a thing but it hadn't ever crossed my mind. I'm a member of a local vets practice who have a 24-hour emergency clinic, and in February, they called me asking for Bear's help. I've helped the vets out a few times, transporting poorly dogs in my van.
"The vet said, 'We've had an emergency come in, we need a blood donor. We know you've got a really nice natured Great Dane. Are you free to bring him down?' I said, 'Yes of course' and raced over there.
"When we arrived, the vet took us into a consultation room and talked me through the process.
"Initially they had to take some blood to check Bear was healthy and to see what blood type he was. I think there are only two types: positive or negative. Negative blood type can be given to any dog, but Bear's positive, which is not quite as good because he can only donate to another dog who's positive. It's not universal.
Brave was so brave at the vets
"The actual process of taking the blood is all to do with gravity, so wherever they put the cannula, they rely on gravity to take the blood from it into the bag.
"The vet said that normally they give a dog a mild sedation before drawing blood, which takes 20-30 minutes to fill the bag, but remarkably, they didn't need to sedate Bear because he was so calm and well behaved.
!I was a bit worried as he'd never given blood before and he was only two years old – what if he decided to move during the process?
"They reassured me he'd be fine, so I sat next to him and held his head up to the ceiling so they could take the blood from his neck, and a nurse sat behind him. They inserted the cannula and tried to take blood for three or four minutes but it just wasn't coming, there wasn't enough gravity. The woman said we'd be there all night!
A relaxed Bear giving blood
"It was decided the best thing would be to get him onto the consultation table, which was high up and quite small. Three of us lifted him, then we got Bear to lie down, and the blood flowed out fine.
"Bless him, they kept taking the needle out, putting it back in – it must have been a bit sore because there was no numbing cream or anything. It took about half an hour and it was hot in the room. He didn't flinch at all. I was so surprised.
"The vet said it was so helpful that he's so big – one time they had an emergency and a Collie dog gave blood but he nearly fainted because they have to take the same amount of blood as a large dog, about 420mls.
"When we got Bear off the table afterwards, he was wagging his tail and just wanted another gravy bone! They have to give him two bags of fluid through a drip to top up the blood they took, and that lasted almost an hour. Bear was unreal, I was so proud. We were in there for about three hours. They said he was incredible."
Super dog Bear!
Saving a Miniature Dachshund's life
"Bear's blood went to a seven-year-old Miniature Dachshund called Otto. He was suffering from an autoimmune disorder where his body was attacking his own red blood cells, which is why he needed a blood transfusion.
"He went on to Noel Fitzpatrick, TV's Supervet, for the rest of his treatment and has since recovered. He's back home and doing well.
"Once a dog has given blood, they can donate again but they have to wait two months for their body to replace the blood lost. Bear is now on our vet's blood donor register so he can donate again in the future."
Working as a Therapy Dog
"Bear has just been approved to be a Therapy Dog with Therapy Dogs Nationwide!
"As a Therapy Dog, he'll go to places like hospitals, hospices, schools, old people's homes, stressful working environments such as emergency call centres or police stations, and basically, he goes and gets fussed – which is his idea of absolute heaven.
"It's all about putting a smile on people's faces. He's going to absolutely love it."
Bear is working as a Therapy Dog
"Bear even gets his own uniform: a bandana, jacket, and a collar and a lead that say 'Therapy Dog', and I have a polo shirt to wear.
"Therapy Dog work is voluntary so it's dependent on how often and where I want to take him. A neighbour of mine works in a house with young adults who have severe physical difficulties, so she's asked me to visit with Bear.
"Sometimes people contact the charity and ask if a therapy dog is available, but a lot of people don't know the free service is there. I know they have a lot of requests for Therapy Dogs in schools, where the children read to the dogs if they have trouble reading – apparently they enjoy it more if they're reading to a dog.
"I love the fact that so many people get so much enjoyment from being with Bear. I get so many kids who say, 'I don't like dogs but I like Bear'. It's so great to grow children's confidence with big dogs.
"For me, it's such a great experience owning a special Great Dane and meeting so many people. I love sharing him with everyone."
Visit Therapy Dogs Nationwide at tdn.org.uk
Follow Bear on Instagram at @bigblueboybear
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