My Bionic Pet: Therapy Dog Shows Benefit of Prosthetics for Animals and Humans

April 02, 2014 at 11:53 am

Don’t Stop Believing. It was an appropriate American Kennel Club registration name for a golden retriever puppy born without a paw. Now, five years later, the pup is affectionately known as “Journey,” a nod both to his rock band namesake and to the mobility he’s found as a result of innovative prostheses for animals.

Journey is one of several pets starring in Nature‘s upcoming documentary, My Bionic Pet. The documentary examines the advancing world of prosthetic technology for animals and features a resilient cast including Chris P. Bacon, a pig born with unusable back legs, and Mr. Stubbs, an alligator who lost its tail. Journey was fitted with a specially designed prosthetic paw in 2009. Today, he is a certified therapy dog who visits hospitals and amputee support groups and helps veterans and children adjust to life with prostheses. 

“[H]aving dogs like Journey who can go out and provide emotional support and comfort can show and demonstrate what’s possible, even with limb loss,” Journey’s owner and trainer, Ron Graff, told MetroFocus’ Rafael Pi Roman.

While Journey’s carbon fiber paw certainly has value as a therapy tool, it also demonstrates that prostheses can benefit animals themselves.

“Absolutely, having the prosthetic takes the pressure off of his hips and his spine,” said Graff. “It’ll give him a longer life, a better quality of life. He can certainly get around very well on three paws, but it does give him a better quality of life.”

My Bionic Pet premieres Wednesday, April 9 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS. 

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MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, and Judy and Josh Weston.

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