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Colorado man plans to donate his pacemaker to a dog when he dies. He wants you to, as well

Joe Suchman
Posted at 7:45 PM, Mar 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-26 19:37:10-04

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Joe Suchman created an oasis in the hills above Castle Rock just as much for his four-legged best buddies as for himself.

“You know, the deer come by and [the dogs] love barking at them,” Suchman laughed. “And the coyotes will come by and the dogs are going totally crazy.”

Suchman is a dog lover through and through. He has raised Akitas for three decades and has owned and loved other breeds, as well. They have been a constant in his life and a source of love and comfort through his many adventures. Now he is on a mission to give back to the animals that have given so much to him.

Suchman has had a pacemaker for years. He was walking with one of his dogs when he first noticed symptoms of an irregular heartbeat. Until fate brought him across a post on Facebook years later, Suchman had no idea that dogs sometimes need pacemakers, too.

“I read that, you know, dogs, they have a heart. They need pacemakers at times,” Suchman recalled. “And they are very expensive. And there was a possibility of dogs getting a used pacemaker, which immediately got my mind going.”

Colorado man plans to donate his pacemaker to a dog when he dies. He wants you to, as well

Donated pacemakers for dogs are not common and there is no coordinated registry or network for them. But they do happen, including here in Colorado.

Dr. Pamela Lee, a veterinary cardiologist with the VRCC Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Hospital in Englewood, told Denver7 she performs several pacemaker surgeries each year, usually on dogs with slow or irregular heartbeats. When a donated pacemaker is available, it can save owners thousands of dollars, Lee said.

“With pacemakers from humans, a lot of times, you don’t necessarily want to implant them from people to people because you can transmit diseases,” Lee explained. “Transmitting diseases interspecies is much less common, and so implanting something from a human to another species is a lot safer.”

Lee noted that a donated pacemaker is not always a perfect solution since it may require a battery replacement sooner than a new option. It also requires conversations with one’s family, local veterinarians and funeral planners since there isn’t currently an officially recognized donation process. Lee said the donated pacemakers she has installed have come directly from morgues, often retrieved before the cremation process.

As far as Suchman is concerned, if his pacemaker has the potential to give a dog a second chance someday, it’s the best possible legacy he can think of.

“I love dogs, and the ability to save their life with something I have is really important,” Suchman said. “They have the right to live just like any of us. And if I can do anything to help a dog live, I guarantee I’ll do it.”

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