Am/Int CH Winward’s Razz Ma Tazz
12/26/95 – 7/23/09

OFA: Excellent CERF: AM1355 Chic 22488
Bred by: Diana & Kevin Edwards

Tazz K-9 Kidney Donor

Article from: St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) | April 26, 2003 | Selbert, Pamela | Copyright

Byline: Pamela Selbert Special To The Post-Dispatch

TO A CASUAL observer, Tazz-aka Champion Winward’s Razz Ma Tazz – might appear to be just a typical malamute, albeit unusually handsome and an International American Champion. Like most malamutes, this big bear of a dog likes nothing better than to flop on his back to receive affectionate scratches on his woolly chest. But under the thick cream-colored fur beats the heart of a hero, believes his owner, Diana Edwards of St. Louis.

That’s because Tazz is among an elite group of canines that have donated an organ – in his case a kidney – in an effort to save another dog’s life. The recipient was Buddy, another of Edwards’ malamutes and Tazz’ nephew, who although just 2 years old had been diagnosed with renal failure. Buddy did not survive the ordeal, which took place a year ago August, having developed severe complications during the surgery. But, says Edwards, Tazz is doing well with one kidney, and his prognosis is favorable for a long and healthy life. With the help of several local veterinarians, she watches him closely.

“It took him awhile to recover, but now he’s back to his healthy, happy 90-pound self,” she says with a grin. He’s the first champion to be a kidney donor — he’s my hero.”

Edwards notes that the first successful kidney transplants decades ago were performed on dogs.

“We as a people need to remember all that medical science has learned from experimentation with dogs, and all we owe to them,” she said. “But Tazz is my hero for another reason — he’s helping get the word out about kidney failed in dogs, which is a lot more common than you might think.”

Kidney disease is the No. 2 killer of canines, after cancer, Edwards says. Although it’s often considered more of a problem in older dogs, Buddy is proof that it can also occur in young dogs, she says. Edwards believes that most pet owners have too little awareness of that possibility, although with early detection, the disease’s progress can often be slowed with medication or diet, and cured with a transplant.

Wearing a dark blue jaunty says (provided by The Print Station in Maplewood) emblazoned with the words “Ask Me About My Kidney — K-9 Kidney Donor,” Tazz helps make people aware of the disease and that being a kidney donor is daft for dogs and people, Edwards said. Creamy white, with sable and black markings, and an endearing Eddie Munster hairline, he has appeared at numerous events at the St. Louis Dog Museum and at dog health seminars to tell his story.

Tazz at the Candlelight March

And since becoming a donor two years ago, he has walked with Edwards in the annual Candlelight March sponsored by Mid-America Transplant Services, St. Louis University, St. Louis University Hospital and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. The march is held to recognize organ donors.

At the end of the quarter-mile trek, which draws about 700 participants, the names of donors who are present or whose families are present are read, and the candles are lighted in their honor, according to Tammy Doyle, donor program specialist for Mid-America Transplant. (The 19th annual march took place Tuesday.)

Tazz was among the honorees on both occasions, Edwards says, grinning with pride.

His role as “hero” began two years ago, when Buddy’s health had begun to fail, she said. A local veterinarian diagnosed Buddy with renal dysplasia, explaining that his kidneys had not developed normally.

“I went online, scouring the Internet for anything I might learn about the disease, and called everybody I could think of who could help,” she said. “I wanted so badly to save him.”

Leo Eldridge, a veterinary pathologist for a local animal feed company, familiar with kidney dicers in dogs, was among those she turned to.

“Dialysis was a possibility for the dog, but it isn’t readily available here, and is only a temporary solution in any case, Eldridge said. “The only other option was a transplant.”

Canine kidney transplants are not being done locally, he said. But Eldridge knew of a veterinarian on the West Coast who had performed the surgery a number of times — Lynda Bernsteen of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California at Davis — and telephoned her to discuss Edwards’ pooch.

“After speaking with Dr. Bernsteen I had no hesitation about recommending her to do the surgery,” he said. “It was the only chance for Diana’s dog — but a match had to be found.”

Enter Tazz in his role as hero. Blood tests done at a local animal hospital revealed that of Edwards’ four other malamutes, he came closest, said Ralph Graff, a retired general surgeon, to whom Edwards had also turned for help. Graff, now the director of the tissue typing lab at St. Louis University, who spent most of his surgical career doing kidney transplants, said Tazz was a partial match, but adequate. The only perfect match is an identical twin, he said.

So with Buddy wearing an IV and Tazz primed to be the donor dog, Edwards’ husband, Kevin, set out for California, while she stayed home to care for their other dogs and run her dog-grooming business.

“Buddy seemed an excellent candidate for the surgery,” said Bernsteen, who directs the hospital’s clinical transplant service. “But he turned out to have a condition called ‘hypercoagulability,’ which caused blood clots to begin forming throughout his body during the surgery.” Two weeks later, when a clot lodged in his lung, Buddy had to be euthanized, she said.

“At that point nothing could have been down to save him,” Bernsteen said. “But after losing Buddy, we added ‘coagulation panel’ to the list of tests required before a transplant is done.

She adds, “We learned a lot from Buddy and were better prepared for the next surgery.”

As for Tazz, Bernsteen says his remaining kidney had adapted to the increased workload, and he is not at an increased risk with just one kidney.

Edwards, who did a lot of soul-searching beforehand, says she has been criticized for “letting Tazz go under the knife without his approval.” But Graff, who breeds Great Danes and is an American Kennel Club judge, contends that it “was the sort of decision parents make for their children every day.”

“But does the dog deserve to be honored?” he asks. “Emphatically, yes.”

Of Tazz’s participation in the recent Candlelight March, Graff believes his presence enhanced the event.

“People don’t go through a deep analysis of whether he should have donated the kidney,” Graff said. “They just see a lovely dog that’s doing well — it’s a nice human-interest story with a twist.”

Eldridge also believes the right decision was made, and calls Tazz a hero.

“Diana gave the situation a lot of careful thought, and she knew there would be risks,” he said. “But she had the opportunity to try to do something — and she decided a helpless creature deserved a chance.”

Tazz & Jeff King
Jeff King, Iditarod champion, with Tazz at the grand opening of Cabela’s.
Tazz, Best of Breed Sedalia, 1999Tazz Best of Breed Rolla, 1998

Tazz Conformation CH Certificate

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