Life is hard - even for animals. Especially for animals that are forced to undergo amputations because of injuries, or that have birth defects. But these rescued animals fought tooth-and-nail for survival after losing one of their limbs. Whether it was an alligator who relearned how to swim or an eagle who narrowly escaped with his life after being shot, these stories prove that all it takes to accomplish anything is the will to persevere.
Though these animals thrived under terrible circumstances because of their determined spirits, they also relied on new, life-saving animal prosthetic technology. These specially designed parts are the result of 3D-printing, which has made it more affordable than ever to create animal prosthetics. They're even more functional than traditional doggy wheelchairs and kitty scooters, which are so clumsy disabled pets can never fully live normal lives. Engineers and veterinarians have recently teamed up to take measurements, make molds and specially design animal prosthetics that can be changed in a snap to grow with animals as they age.
The world had almost given up on these animals with prosthetic limbs, though they never lost hope. Veterinarians recommended putting them down, but their human friends refused to give in. These are their inspiring stories.
Maggie The Labrador
Maggie was a service dog who grew extremely close to her ex-Navy SEAL owner, John Brophy. For three years, she helped his mother cope with dementia, but ended up fighting for her life after being hit by a truck.
Then in 2016, Maggie was being walked by Brophy's friend in Fort Lauderdale, FL, when she stepped into the road to sniff out a hedge. That's when she was struck by a truck driver, who ended up cradling the dog in his arms until her owner arrived. Brophy wrapped Maggie up in a shirt and put her in his truck to seek help; however, she was fading fast. Her eyes were rolling back into her head and she had gone into shock. Thankfully, Brophy reached Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists in time.
Doctors put Maggie into a medically induced coma and brought her into surgery. She spent the next three weeks in intensive care, but in the end, they could not save her leg. After multiple surgeries, Maggie was fit with a custom-designed prosthetic leg. She may be down a limb, but after and a long year-and-a-half healing process, she's never lost her spirit. The cute, Labrador pup can be seen wagging her tail and running around Fort Lauderdale.
Vincent The Cat
Vincent the kitty was brought to the Story County Animal shelter in Iowa at just one month old in 2014. This little guy was missing most of his hind legs and couldn't walk. Vets aren't sure about what caused the abnormality, but they knew his left hind leg couldn't be salvaged at all. It would never be able to bend. As he grew older, Vincent began developing painful sores on his hind legs because he tried to use them to walk.
Vets performed a very rare surgery to give Vincent a normal life. They designed implants that could be inserted into his femur bones. They used 3-D printing technology to create one-of-a-kind legs for Vincent. Less than 25 animals have ever had this surgery. Though Vincent has a long road to recovery, vets believe his hind legs will eventually grow as strong and tall as his front legs with the help of his implants.
Kiwi The Fish
Poor little Kiwi was being bullied by his tank mates after developing a cataract in 2016. They figured out which was effected and would go up behind him and bite his tail. His bullying was so severe that he had chunks of his tail missing.
Kiwi's vet, St. Louis Dr. Megan Baebler, removed the cataract and eventually removed the entire eye. With just an open socket, she saw a way to curb his terribly bullying. She hand-painted an acrylic prosthetic eye using a mix of eyeshadow and nail polish to give it a real fish-like iridescence. She had ordered the eye online, and after administering general anesthesia, she performed the 30 minute surgery to put the eye in place.
According to Kiwi's owner, since receiving the eye, he's eating, swimming, and is happy.
Mr. Stubbs The Alligator
Mr. Stubbs, an Arizona gator, lived most of his life without his tail after it was bitten off by another alligator. He was found in the back of a truck that was illegally transporting 31 other gators. Officials handed him over to the Arizona Fish and Game Department, but knew he needed specialized treatment that they couldn't give him themselves. The department passed him off to the Phoenix Herpetological Society (PHS), who teamed up with the Center for Orthopedic Research and Education (CORE) Institute to build him a new tail in 2013.
Mr. Stubbs couldn't swim without his tail – a life-threatening condition for a wild gator. When he was put in water deeper than he could stand, he would flip over and not be able to flip himself back up. Inspired by the dolphin that learned to swim with a prosthetic tail, researchers built him a prosthetic molded from the tail of an alligator cadaver of a similar size.
Mr. Stubbs went through intense rehabilitation to learn how to swim, first learning to doggy paddle while wearing water wings. The nine-year-old alligator is the first of his kind to ever get a prosthetic.