Like us, dogs can sometimes be born a little different than you would expect, deformities or even birthmarks, but this puppy, Furgus was born without his left front paw, just a small stump there instead.
An interesting turn is that his owners are training him to be a service animal who will work with people who struggle to deal with limb amputations.
Every weekend Jessie Higgins of Riverside Orthotics and Prosthetics opens up for a very special patient to come and see him.
Tom Whitehurst says: – “He’s changing every time I see him” …at the time Tom was smiling and applying, very carefully, a cast to the stumped keg of Furgus, a Great Dane puppy!
Tom went on to say: – “Everything is an experiment” … “I just learn as we go.”
Tom doesn’t normally work on, or with animals like this, but in Furgus case, he is indeed special! The pup was born without his front left paw, it was Bill and Pam Laurence who had adopted the pup when he was just four weeks old!
They made the decision that the pup should be trained as a service animal pretty much immediately and had a vision of taking him to people who struggled with limbs that they had to have amputated.
It’s very common for people to be quite angry and sad about losing one or more of their limbs and at this crucial stage is very important how things are handled and in a positive way. They had the ingenious thought that this pup can help them in more than one way!
Pam Lawrence said: “I know (people) are angry at that point” … “showing them, -Hey, I can handle this.”
Pam said that to be that sort of service dog Furgus needed to have a prosthetic leg, but the Lawrences really didn’t have that kind of money to get one for him!
Pam called a local veterinarian and many universities to find out if they were able to make Furgus a leg, but they didn’t have any luck at all…. Then Bill remembered that Tom, the prosthetics guy, had made a leg for his father back in the 90s and that gave him an idea!
He at least thought that it was at the very least worth a try and to have a chat with Tom. As it happens Tom remembered his father Bill very well, and it started from there….
Tom said: “He was the first person I made a leg for when I moved into town here.”
Back at the start of August, the Lawrences took Furgus to the Riverside clinic, it was then that Tom made up a prosthetic leg for Furgus. Now four months old and on his sixth prosthetic leg it doesn’t end there, the rate he is growing, like many other pups, he will need many more legs making for him at each stage he grown that bit more.
Amazingly and very generously Tom is doing the work on Furgus’s prosthetic legs in his own time and even kinder he isn’t charing the Lawrences for his work, what a nice guy!
Tom said: “I feel like I’m responsible for this dog to walk, you know?” … “So I’ve got to keep doing it.”
Furgus, without his false leg, really can’t move around nearly as well, it’s much more difficult for him, with about half a leg stump he uses this to try to walk, but like this, it can get sore and painful. Without the proper balance between his paws, all four paws it would strain his other joints and be quite bad as he got older!
Tom said: “He’s constantly going to be reaching for the ground with it.”
Tom also explained that the process of creating usable dogs legs is difficult and involves a lot of trial and error to get it just right!
Fugus’ very first fitting of a prosthetic was simple and very basic, it was a peg leg, like a pirate really, held in place by a sling. Then starting to get more advanced in later attempts, Tom utilised the joint from a child’s prosthetic arm, creating a knee with it.
This is how it goes, Tom builds a new leg, Furgus learns to walk with it quickly, bounds around everywhere then grows and then needs a new leg again… always looking to play!
Tom Said: “With animals, anything that helps them walk better they just go right to.”
“They have just one purpose, walk to food, or get somewhere to go run and play. If they can’t do it, but you throw something on there to make it better, they just take right to it. That’s the cool thing about them.”
The Lawrence’s are training Furgus to be a service dog, and visiting with people with recent amputations, also, Pam Lawrence hopes to take him into schools to help children learn about diversity!
Pam said: “I think he’ll help show people that if he can overcome this adversity that he was born with.…then we can overcome our own adversity.”