Brian and April Spiess are pretty proud of their German shepherd

Dog retires a blood donor ‘hero’

Ember, an eight-year-old German Shepherd, is donating blood for the last time on Saturday.

Blood is in people to give, or so the Canadian Blood Service reminds folks regularly.

But while there are often efforts afoot to encourage humans to donate blood, few would realize there’s a similar service available in Langley to help the canine population.

Ember Von Der Sinburg knows it well. In fact, the eight-year-old German shepherd purebred is being honoured this weekend for having helped save the lives of more than 20 dogs through her ongoing donations of blood.

Ember is active in canine agility and sports clubs, carting, and nose work. She recently moved from Aldergrove to Abbotsford with her humans – April and Brian Spiess – as well as her canine siblings Wink (a three-year-old Australian cattle dog) and Sasha (a two-year-old border collie cross).

But she’ll be making the trek back to Langley this weekend to give one last blood donation at Langley’s Animal Emergency Clinic of the Fraser Valley.

Over the course of the past few years, Ember has donated blood almost every three months or a total of 20 times at the animal hospital.

Once a dog reaches eight years old they are classified as a senior in the canine world, and they typically have to stop donating because it’s harder for them to bounce back, Spiess explained. Even though that doesn’t appear to be the case yet for Ember – who is still very active – she will be retiring after her final donation on Saturday.

“I know they want to do something special for her,” Spiess said of the clinic staff, noting her dog has always been excited about visiting the hospital – even though Ember knows she has to be hooked up and lie still for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes at a time.

Ember may be a senior in dog years, but she’s a puppy at heart said April Spiess. The purebred German shepherd is active in agility, carting, and nose work.“She just loves people and other dogs, and she is so receptive to helping,” Spiess said.

Without question, she explained, it’s a lot of work to be a participant. In addition to ensuring the dog maintains a healthy lifestyle, there’s the issue of keeping up specific feeding habits.

“But, it is so important,” Spiess added. “It makes you feel good that you’re actually helping other animals… And if I ever get another dog over 50 pounds, I’ll do it again.”

There are pictures and thank-you letters hanging on the Spiess’ fridge from a few of the recipient families that have benefited from Ember’s donations.

Spiess has been active in the dog community for the past two decades, and was aware of such services offered in the U.S. before.

But she first learned of a blood donation service for dogs being available in the Lower Mainland about nine years ago while attending a pet fair in Vancouver.

She did some research, and discovered an emergency clinic in Langley offered an on-demand program.

“This dog has saved lives,” Spiess said, encouraging others dog owners to consider signing up their pets as donors.

The local program is open to both dogs and cats, and has been going at the local animal emergency clinic for close to a decade, explained blood service coordinator Andrea Dyck.

When it started, it was an on-demand type service, where donors could be called at all times of the day or night to come and donate. In 2010, the program changed where donors contribute every three months and the clinic has blood in storage for emergency situations.

“Most of our donors have never hit 20, so it’s a big thing for us, and a big thing for Ember,” Dyck said. “This is a milestone… For us to honour Ember and to recognize all the pets she’s saved, we’re pretty dang proud of her. She’s our hero.”

For those interested in finding out more about donating, they can email Andrea Dyck at


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