Bionic Therapy Animals

Therapy animals with prosthetics and other mobility devices help children and adults adjust to a new way of life.

By Allison Martin

Therpay Bird at ALYN HospitalIn the remarkable group of therapy animals, there is an even more unusual group of therapy animals - animals with prosthetics or other mobility devices. People can be remarkably creative in finding ways to compensate for damage or loss to a limb, and that includes animal lovers as well. There are even vet practices that specialize in creating prosthetic limbs for pets. These animals can provide inspiration to people with physical disabilities. They are fun and inspirational, plus they help normalize the children's experiences. Animals don't let much stop them, so they exude a positive, keep going attitude that is fun to watch and inspiring.

For example, there the pig Chris P. Bacon, named after a character is a video game. Born with malformed back legs, veterinarian Dr. Len Lucero took in the abandoned piglet and created a wheelchair for him. He is the star of several youtube videos. One short video shows this adorable piglet learning to use his first wheelchair. Another video shows the pig, now in a much bigger wheelchair, entertaining sick children at a hospital in Massachusetts.

rabbit therapy at ALYNAnother remarkable pet providing inspiration to children, is a rabbit named Alyna. Alyana is a therapy rabbit for ALYN Pediatric and Adolescent Rehabilitation Center in Jerusalem, Israel. Alyana was born with her back legs paralyzed and has been fitted with a smaller size version of the brace that young children in the hospital are encouraged to wear. The brace is not that comfortable but the rabbit demonstrates the increased mobility achieved with the device, and shows that is it possible. She has encouraged hundreds of children on to wellness. A proponent of animal therapy for children with disabilities, ALYN speech therapists also offer supportive communication groups using animals, such as the bird in the picture above, in therapy sessions.

hudson therapy dog at awardsThe American Humane Hero Dog Awards® are an annual, nationwide competition that searches out and recognizes America’s Hero Dogs – often ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things, whether it’s saving lives on the battlefield, lending sight or hearing to a human companion, or simply providing the tail-wagging welcome a pet owner relishes at the end of a hard day. One remarkable therapy dog received the American Humane Hero Dog Awards in 2015. Hudson’s paw had to be amputated after he was found nailed to a railroad track in Albany, Ny. He and his sister Pearl became known as the “Railroad Puppies” after being rescued. Hudson was one of the first dogs in New York to be fitted with a prosthetic paw. Hudson is now a therapy dog, and has visited schools, hospitals, and adult day care facilities. His owner say," We continue to try to teach the children and everyone we meet that just because you’re different, you are still special in your own “Wooftastic” way."

Allison Martin, MPA is an animal lover, a biologist and web designer.