When Naki'o was a puppy, he was found, along with his litter mates and dead mother, abandoned in a foreclosed home in Nebraska. Naki'o was literally frozen into a puddle on the floor, and had to have all four of his paws and part of his tail amputated as a result. A Colorado Springs veterinary assistant named Christine Pace got wind of the dog's woeful story and was so taken that she adopted the severely handicapped puppy. At first, Naki'o was able get around on his stumps, but as he grew, his weight limited his activity. Pace raised enough money to get him outfitted with prosthetic limbs for his back legs, which suffered the worse damage. Seeing that the playful pup managed so well on his bionic paws, Martin and Amy Kaufman of Orthopets created a pair of front-leg prosthesis as well. (You can watch a short documentary on his inspirational little life — but beware: You will cry.) (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)
In 2011, Pay de Limon was reportedly the victim of a Mexican drug gang assault. It's believed that Mexico City gang members used the Belgian shepherd mix — whose name means lemon pie in English — as practice for other gruesome crimes. They reportedly cut off his two front paws to test out intimidation tactics they would later use on human hands. The dog was left in the trash to die, and a passerby heard his cries and took him to Milagros Caninos, a local sanctuary for abused animals. The staff nursed Pay de Limon back to health and raised more than $6,000 through donations to pay for two front-leg prosthetic limbs. He's now accustomed to his new legs and can be seen happily trotting around the sanctuary like any other dog. (REUTERS/Tomas Bravo)
Abayed was once a working sheepdog in Jordan. But in 2011, a stranger, mistaking him for a stray, shot Abayed and paralyzed his hind legs. His owner found the howling dog and took him to a local animal shelter, where the medics said it was clear the dog had a will to live. Instead of putting him down, the shelter took the handicapped dog in as their own and eventually outfitted him with a pair of wheeled legs. The harness gives the former shepherding dog the freedom to roam the shelter's grounds, wrangling the occasional rogue sheep or goat just for the fun of it. (IMAGE: REUTERS/Ali Jarekji)
Phil and Nancy Stafford would do anything for their long-haired collie mix Maulee. And in the summer of 2001, when their beloved pet got tangled in the blades of a wheat cutter near their home in Jasper County, Ga., their dedication was put to the test. Maulee lost part of her right paw in the accident, and nearly bled to death. But after five days in the hospital, the dog recovered and the Staffords began calling around to veterinarians who could create a prosthetic for their dog. The initial search proved difficult, with some vets even laughing at the idea. But eventually, a medic who specializes in human artificial limbs agreed to the unique challenge. "When I designed Maulee's socket, I approached it very much like I would if making an arm for a patient that had the same level of amputation," Daniel Holzer said. After several iterations, Maulee was outfitted with a nylon sock and a flexible limb that allowed her to roam the fields like before. (Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)
Cassidy was already missing a leg when Steve and Susan Posovsky adopted him from a New York shelter in 2005. At first they just wanted to care for and love the dog, but it quickly became clear that the handicap was taking a toll on his mobility and health. "You could see his posture; it was really hard for him," Susan Posovsky said. Cassidy's owners went to veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little in North Carolina, who was inspired to create a canine first — an integrated artificial leg. "We worked for about a year to try to design an eternal brace that was fairly sophisticated, but did not work very well," Marcillin-Little said. Cassidy ended up graduating to a permanent prosthetic — a titanium rod implanted into Cassidy's lower leg bone. A carbon-fiber foot with a rubber tread for traction is screwed onto the implant, which, over time, fused seamlessly with the real bone. Now, the dog can sprint with the best of them. "Watching him run on the beach is a very emotional thing for me personally," said Steve Posovsky, pictured getting a kiss from Cassidy. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Shawn Rocco)
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