Give the dog a bone — and a new set of paws.
That’s what Naki’o, a 2-year-old red heeler mix, needed when found two years ago in a foreclosed Nebraskan home. Frozen standing in a puddle, Naki’o received severe frostbite and lost his paws, a part of his tail and a part of his nose as a result.
A Puppy’s Voice, an organization that saves dogs from high-kill shelters, rescued Naki’o and his litter mates, and the injured pup caught the eye of veterinary technician Christie Pace.
“When I got him, he was 8 weeks, 4 pounds, and he was missing patches of fur because he had mange. But he was just such a happy guy,” says Pace, who adopted Naki’o after reading his story online. Pace changed his name from “Stubby” to “Naki’o,” which is Hawaiian for “puddles.”
As Naki’o grew, Pace noticed that he began to limp and use just three of his legs. She reached out to OrthoPets, a practice that provides prosthetic and orthotic solutions for pets, to create prosthetics for Naki’o.
“He can’t really feel the ground at all with any of his four limbs, which is different than most patients. His contact to the earth is entirely mechanical,” says Dr. Patrice Mich, a veterinary anesthesiologist who works with OrthoPets. “So the challenge was to create the world’s first dog with four prosthetic limbs.”
Pace organized a fundraiser to pay for two of Naki’o’s prosthetics, and because he adapted so well to them, OrthoPets donated the remaining two prosthetic legs.
Martin Kaufmann, the founder of OrthoPets, designed and fitted Naki’o’s prostheses. They were made to copy the natural bone structure and muscle of a dog’s limbs.
“When we saw how good he was doing with his back leg prosthetics and how he was struggling to use his front legs, it was very simple to say, ‘We’ve got to keep up with him. He could do much better with all four prosthetics on,'” Kaufmann says.
With his new limbs, Naki’o can jump, run, play and even swim like most other dogs. He also serves as the face of Pace’s organization, Nakio’s Underdog Rescue, which works to rescue disabled animals.
“Love has no boundaries,” Pace says. “I love to help any animal with a disability and show the world how capable they are. Now that he has prosthetics, I don’t think he realizes he’s different at all.”
If you’re looking for pet prostheses in North Carolina, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine has fitted animals with leg prosthetics, including Cassidy, a German shepherd mix.
When not tending to his human patients, technician Frank Hodges, of SunStone Lab in Wake Forest, also fits dogs for prostheses.
Take a look at the video below to learn more about Naki’o’s story: