We've known and loved several "under-legged" pets over the years: Mrs. Beasley, the tripod barn cat who could still hop to the top of a fence post, and Oreo, our neighbor's Boston Terrier, who's still faster than his human even with just three pins.
Animals can adapt to amputations, usually quite well -- but some animals haven't had to. Owners of dogs, cats, chickens, and sheep have invested in everything from wheels to TK to TKTK paws to help their furry friends get around. Below, six of our favorite stories.
1. Retired battery chicken Amelia gets $900+ bionic leg
Amelia, rescued from a factory farm in the UK by Sue Murphy and her family, received a first-of-its-kind operation to scaffold a fractured femur. Richard Jones, who performed the procedure, had done similar surgeries on parrots and falcons before, but never on a hen. Three more operations followed to remove the bracing pins; Murphy said she'd have done the same for any pet, adding that Amelia has "such character." Apparently Amelia is fully recovered (and presumably not getting stopped by airport metal detectors), and back to perching on her owners' rooftop.
2. Black cat Oscar gets some good luck with two new hind feet
It might seem like Oscar crossed his own path; as he took a nap in a field in Jersey (UK), a combine ran over the poor feline and severed the lower portions of his two back legs. But his vet, Peter Haworth, thought big about the problem and called in Noel Fitzpatrick of Surrey to consult on the case. Fitzpatrick had been developing a new prosthetic, and decided Oscar was a perfect candidate for the procedure: implantation of intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics (ITAPs). What do those terms mean, exactly? The prosthetic paws are drilled directly into the remaining bone; the cat's skin will then grow around the ends, forming a sterile seal. Once Oscar got used to walking around on the pegs, it was time to attach flexible prosthetic paws ("paw-thotics"?) to the ends, which would approximate a natural feline foot action. The BBC featured Oscar and Fitzpatrick in their half-hour special, "Bionic Vet."
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3. Roscoe the Pug gets a new set of wheels
Roscoe, a Toronto Pug with disabled hindquarters, had a custom-made wheelchair he used to get around -- until thieves snatched it from his owner's front porch in October of 2011. The story was featured in the Toronto Star's "The Fixer" column, and the Canadian community pulled together to help Roscoe; one reader passed along a wheelchair she no longer needed, and dog trainer Margo Hiltz pitched in as well. Said owner Christine Borsuk, "It absolutely redeems my faith in human nature."
"Sheepishness" puns ahoy! Check out this video of Carmen the little lambkins drinking from a bottle, hanging out with her minder, and walking around on her new front limb, which she wears a few hours a day as she gets used to it. Carmen lives at a sanctuary near Sacramento, CA and would have died without treatment -- her previous owners used her to crop weeds, and her mother "was afraid of her," so she wasn't getting any food, or any treatment for her broken leg. A neighbor convinced the owner to donate Carmen to Animal Place, and although it was too late to save Carmen's leg, a doctor donated the prosthetic -- and will continue to help with larger prosthetics as Carmen grows.
5. Naki'o defeats the effects of frostbite
Naki'o was found frozen into a puddle as a puppy, and lost all four paws (and the tip of his tail) to frostbite. Veterinary assistant Christie Pace resolved to help him out, raising the money for two prosthetic limbs for Naki'o's hind feet. Inspired in turn by Pace's determination, the manufacturer of the legs, Ortho Pets, donated two more bionic paws -- for free. Naki'o's challenge now is to relearn what the ground feels like to walk on using different feet...but he's obviously up for it.
6. Gamera the tortoise rolls on
Named for the creature in old-school Japanese monster movies, Gamera came in to an animal hospital in Pullman, WA with a severe leg injury last April. Vets couldn't heal the leg, and had to amputate it at the shoulder -- slowing down an already-slow animal even further. But the WSU vets came up with an innovative solution: a caster-style wheel (like you'd find on a desk chair), epoxied to Gamera's shell. The caster allows Gamera to cruise on smooth and bumpy surfaces alike, and WSU spokesman Charlie Powell dryly noted that Gamera quickly learned how to roll towards food, regaining three pounds shortly after the procedure. (The largest known specimen of this type of tortoise: a 232-pounder. So Gamera's got trans-fat catching up to do.)