Rescue Dog Inspires Medical Breakthrough

The rescue and care of one little dog could change the way disabled dogs live.

By | Posted: November 13, 2014, 2 p.m. PST

When a shelter in Riverside, Calif., called German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County last year about a 4-month-old stray needing help, the rescue didn’t hesitate. It knew the little pup, born without a rear right paw or a properly formed left rear pad, would someday make a great pet.

But the group didn’t know that an invention created to treat the dog would also possibly revolutionize the way disabled dogs live and thrive. 

 Photo from Project Wiggles 

Wiggles, as she came to be known, flourished in the care and love of GSROC foster homes for more than nine months. No one seemed interested in adopting the sweet, laid-back shepherd mix, most likely due to her disability. She rarely used her back leg without the paw, instead curling it up against her and hopping on three legs as she tried to run around. 

"People want a perfect dog,” says Scott MacIntyre, GSROC program coordinator. "So it takes a special person to take on a dog with that challenge.” 

Things changed when the rescue heard about annual projects created by senior college students in the biomedical engineering department at the University of California, Irvine. 

A light bulb went off at GSROC headquarters. 

Why not suggest that the students create low-cost, adjustable prosthetic legs for dogs in need, allowing them to function on all four limbs once again? And why not use Wiggles as the first recipient? 

"We knew that the UCI engineering students had many worthy projects to consider, so we tried not to get our hopes up,” says Maria Dales, director and founder of GSROC. 

But Wiggles’ project was chosen and UCI and GSROC began a months long project to create "fake legs” for Wiggles. 

Seven UCI students worked tirelessly for 7 months to design inexpensive yet highly effective prostheses. The students’ invention is a fully adjustable universal design, making it easy to manufacture and order with minimal wait times. 

 

Photo from Project Wiggles 
  

The journey wasn’t easy. Keeping Wiggles still while casts were made, and creating model after model as Wiggles grew, presented challenges. One student, heavily involved in the actual manufacturing of the prostheses, took Wiggles home with him for two weeks, giving him more hands-on time with her and the legs right before presenting the project to UCI professors for final grading. 

So did the team members all get an A on their senior project?  "Yes, yes they did,” MacIntyre laughs. 

The future looks bright for dogs with limb issues, thanks to this project. The students are working with potential investors to continue development of such apparatus. 

And Wiggles? Remember the student who spent so much time with her before the project presentation? Well, he’s Wiggles’ happily ever after. Jason Tsang of Anaheim, Calif., fell in love with Wiggles and officially adopted her in June. 

"She was so patient and affectionate after she got to know us that we just couldn’t let her go,” Tsang says. 

Welcome home, Wiggles! 

To see Wiggles in action, go to Facebook.com/ProjectWiggles

The efforts of German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County to aid and rescue dogs inspired Freekibble.com, a web site dedicated to providing nutritious food to shelter animals, to donate 10,000 meals of Halo Spot’s Stew to GSROC. 

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Cyndy   St. Helens, Oregon

11/19/2014 10:14:13 PM

Congratulations to the students and university for their wonderful invention. Hopefully you will get funding and continue in this important endeavor. And thanks to Jason for adopting Wiggles!

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Jaime   St. George, Utah

11/19/2014 5:26:47 PM

How wonderful these gifted students are. How wonderful for Wiggles to be able to run and play just like the other dogs! I agree with Ostara, Wiggles is perfect! ! I hope these students continue their good work for more animals in need.

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Jason   Anaheim, California

11/19/2014 2:38:50 PM

Corinne: her left hind leg is missing toes and her right hind leg is missing the foot.

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