TAMPA, Fla. - Westcoast Brace & Limb is filled with stories of triumph. Patients include children and combat veterans who maintain normal lives thanks to a laboratory equipped for the most challenging of requests.
Requests like the one they just received.
"We'll try it and see what happens," said WCBL certified prosthetist Jason Redd. "I approached it the exact same way as I would a human."
Redd recently made molds for his patient, Spencer. He wrapped Spencer's paralyzed legs with a fiberglass wrap, and used the WCBL traditional process for creating thermoplastic braces.
Except Spencer is anything but a traditional patient.
"He doesn't know any different," said Spencer's owner, Linda Heinz. "He doesn't know he's different from other dogs."
Spencer is a 2-year-old English bulldog. His owners found him on their front doorstep, unable to move his back legs. Their veterinarian suspects, given the nature of his spinal cord injury, that someone likely dropped him or stomped on him as a puppy.
Because Spencer drags and injures his paws when he moves, he's never even gone on a real walk. He stays glued to the front window, crying, when he sees other dogs walk by.
"His whole life he's spent at my feet, looking up and crying, like, 'Pick me up! Pick me up! Take me here, take me there,'" Heinz said. "He wails, and wails, and wails because he wants to be outside."
Redd has never fitted a dog for a brace though, and he wasn't even completely sure it would work.
"With people, you can kind of tell them, 'Please sit still, I have to hold it in this position,'" Redd said. "Spencer wants to get around. I'm going to help him get around as best he can."
Thursday, Redd strapped the new braces to Spencer's legs. He added a pair of children's-sized green Crocs to stabilize Spencer's gate.
Everyone took a deep breath and waited as Heinz placed Spencer on the ground. Within seconds, he started to move his hips, and walked right out of the examining room.
In fact, he ran up and down the clinic hallway so many times, he had to stop for a drink of water.
"Now he can explore and get into trouble like a normal dog," Heinz smiled. "He's the happiest creature you'll ever meet. He wakes up happy. He never has a bad moment."
As if walking out from his appointment wasn't enough of an accomplishment, Spencer returned home for his first walk with his "brother," Porkchop, a blind pig.
"I wouldn't mind doing more animals," Redd laughed. "They're fun to work with."
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