India: Dear is happy with his new leg!

Dear, with his new leg

Hit by a vehicle, the two-month old baby donkey was thrown clear of the Eastern Express Highway, near Vikhroli, one of the suburbs of Mumbai.  His rescuers picked him up quite a distance away from the highway.

When he was brought in to Thane SPCA, his most immediate problem was severe loss of blood.  It took a while to stabilize him, and by that time gangrene had set in, further threatening his life.

To save the little donkey’s life, he needed an operation to remove his leg. But this was a big problem. A dog will do fine with three legs, but a big heavy animal like a donkey (and a little donkey will of course grow into a big donkey) doesn’t do so well with three legs.

They asked a number vets to perform the operation, but all felt hesitant; they had no experience with amputating the leg of a donkey, and they felt doubtful about the outcome.  Then, Thane SPCA’s regular surgeon, Dr. Vikaram Dave, agreed to do the surgery.  He studied the case extensively, and he began calling the donkey “Dear” – a name which stuck with the charming little fellow because of his lovely nature.

Dr. Dave performed a three-hour operation on Dear.

Because Thane SPCA doesn’t have a chain and pulley system with which to suspend large animals (the cost is prohibitive), they rigged a sling to the roof of the cattle shed, to keep Dear suspended until his wounds had started to heal.

Soon he was back on the ground and active again.  His leg was dressed every day by the vets, and twice a week by Dr. Dave.  Being an active little donkey, he wouldn’t stay still and managed to move around more than was good for him, so the wound tended to open up.  Dr. Dave designed custom socks for him to keep this from happening.

Dear was given a supervised walk every day to keep his metabolism in good shape.  He didn’t seem to notice that he had a missing leg and was super-friendly with all the other  shelter residents.

Thane SPCA’s friend, Dipankar, a IIT engineer, put his engineering skills to work to design a special artificial leg for Dear, and it was fitted on him.  After initial awkwardness for the first couple of days, Dear grew used to it and does fine with it.

He has it on the whole day, and it’s taken off at about 8 pm when he gets ready to sleep.

This artificial leg is just the prototype.  Dipankar is still perfecting the design, and at least five changes will be incorporated in the final design.  Dear is very acclimated to wearing his new leg, and should be really comfortable with the final version.

There have already been a number of inquiries from people who own farms about adopting Dear, to give him a lifelong, happy home.

It is hoped that this success with Dear will set a precedent for developing prosthetic legs for other donkeys and horses who need them, when their circumstances will allow them to live out their lives in an adoptive home.

To visit the website of Thane SPCA, click here.

Photo: Courtesy of Thane SPCA