Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Andre the Dog Is Out on Some Fancy New Limbs - ALL leg-hold trapping should be illegal

A few years back, one of my neighbors was walking her little dog in the woods along with her children and the unspeakable happened - the little poodle mix stepped into a leg-hold trap. Neither she nor the children were able to free the little pooch so she had to leave him in the woods so she could get to a phone to call for help. Happily, help arrived and after significant rehabilitation, he could walk again. 

This story caught my eye because although it eventually had a good ending - this never should have happened. It didn't have to happen. Leg-hold traps should be totally illegal, in my opinion. They are inhumane regardless of the animal a trapper hopes to catch and eventually kill. Those who use them illegally, if caught, should be punished to the full extent of the law.
That 3-year-old Andre is even alive is a miracle. That he can do one of his favorite things—chase after a tennis ball—shows what a little silicone and a lot of love can do.

A sweet-natured, jet-black Alsatian-Rottweiler mix, Andre survived a nightmare in the woods near his home in Wasilla, Alaska, last May. He went for a walk on his own and stepped into an illegal hunting trap, which snapped around his left front and back legs. Hopelessly snared and desperate, Andre did what he had to do to stay alive—he chewed through both paws to free himself. A hiker followed a trail of blood and found Andre beneath an overturned camper trailer, hiding, frightened, near death.

That’s when the Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue squad took over. Andre, who was found wearing a collar, was never claimed by his owner, even though media coverage of the plucky pup rivaled that of fellow-Wasillan Sarah Palin, who was picked to run for Vice President around the same time. Rescue staffers kept Andre and nursed him back to health, to the point where he could hop around on his two right legs. But he could only stay upright for a few hops before having to lie down.

A dog like Andre generally has few options—he can spend the rest of his life indoors, on his side, or he can be put down. But Andre got lucky— Alaska Rescue’s Karen McNaught placed a call to Martin Kauffman. Along with his wife, Amy, Kauffman runs OrthoPets in Denver, Colo., one of the few companies that makes prosthetic limbs for animals. "She said she read about us online and she asked if we could help Andre," Kauffman tells "I said, 'You bet we can.' "

Kauffman had Andre flown down to Denver and got right to work. He examined Andre’s damaged limbs, which, because they were self-amputated, had uneven bits of bone and skin. "That was the biggest challenge," says Kauffman. "We had bony edges and not a lot of skin closure, a lot of things that could set us up for potential discomfort. We wanted to be able to fit him with new legs without having to put him through more surgery."

Kauffman created two silicon, hypoallergenic, foam-lined prosthetics. "The goal was to make them comfortable and safe and allow Andre to biometrically return to normal," he says. Kauffman slipped the prosthetics onto Andre’s damaged limbs and fastened them with Velcro straps—"sort of like putting on a ski boot in reverse," he explains. "You slip it on and lock it in place. Andre could not pull his legs out of it."

Andre got right up, but immediately resumed hopping on his two good legs. But when Kauffman put him on a leash and slowly walked him, Andre began to get the hang of it. "He was stumbling a bit, he wasn’t sure where the ground was. He was like a person walking on stilts for the first time."

Bit by bit, Kauffman increased the length of time Andre spent with his new legs on. Andre got a little bit more confident with each step, but he still didn’t seem too sure of himself. Then, on just Day Two, one of Kauffman’s neighbors showed up at his Denver office with his pet lab. The neighbor threw a tennis ball on the front lawn, and his lab happily chased after it.

And then, just like that, so did Andre.

"He just took off," says Kauffman. "He ran on all four legs. He didn’t think about it, he just let nature take over. He saw the ball, and he was gone. It was a very emotional moment."

Kauffman also arranged for a friend to adopt Andre. "I had to find someone who could keep Andre with him all day long, because he hates being alone. And this guy can." Andre wears his silicon legs all day long, then sleeps without them. He’ll need to change the inner linings once a year, but the shells should last for at least five years. Kauffman, who created the prosthetics for free, says each one normally costs around $700—about one/tenth of what a prosthetic for a human costs.

Kauffman, who calls Andre "a fun-loving knucklehead," says that Andre’s story has touched a lot of people—and led to real changes. Because of Andre, legislators in Alaska passed a new law restricting and regulating hunting traps. What’s more, "Andre shows that you don’t have to put a dog down even if something horrible happens to him and he loses a limb or two limbs. There’s a lot of things that are possible now that will allow dogs like Andre to lead normal lives."

Even so, Kauffman can’t quite believe how quickly Andre adapted to his new life, given the horror of his ordeal. "I marvel at how he could overcome such tremendous emotional and physical pain and just be normal again," he says. "He is awesome."

National Canine Cancer Foundation


Sam said...

The poor dog... It is a shame that things like this have to happen in order for good to come out of them. So many dogs will benefit from the prothetic legs. Cheers to the people who came to help this little dog!


JackDaddy said...

I liked the part where he took off after the tennis ball without thinking.

Ginger Jasper said...

Thank god that there are people to help.. But yes it should never have happened and those traps should be illegal.. The part that is so hard to imagine is that no one claimed the lovely dog.. Hgs GJ x

Alex93andme said...

Those traps definitely should be illegal. I am so relieved that at least their were people to help. Thanks to all of them!

Benny and Lily said...

We bet that trap owner wouldn't want his foot stuck!
Benny & Lily

Brownie said...

oh my goodnesss... it's horrifying imagining the pain those poor babies were in! Kidos for the good post.

Sam said...

What a good ending.. that is one LUCKY dog! He's probably one in a million :)

Oskar said...

Hooray for Andre & all of the wonderful people who helped him.

I agree that those traps should be banned!

The OP Pack said...

What an incredible story - the world really does have some wonderful people in it, doesn't it?

Woos, the OP Pack

Teddy Bear said...

What an inspiring story. Andre is a miracle!

Teddy Bear

^..^Corgidogmama said...

Oh, he looks like such a good ol' happy boy!

Amazing spirit, and again, where's my gun....enough of this nonsense! Where are people's brains for god's sake?

Wild Dingo said...

Wow! wonderful post. I have a friend at Walkin' the Bark rescue who fosters Popeye the Dog, who only has 2 front legs. They now found dog-gone-wheels, a special wheel chair and that dog acts like there is nothing wrong. he runs everywhere...on beaches, on trails, on pavement. that wheelchair never gives out! check out popeye the dog (google him) or Walkin' the Bark some time. it's a wonderful story. but he still needs a forever home... sigh...
wild dingo

The Animal Doctor said...

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story.

We followed your advice and put up a donation button in our blog so we can raise funds to buy our handicapped dog, Scarlet, her much needed wheelchair.

Thank you very much for a great idea.

Mango said...

Dogs seem able to adapt to the most horrible things. Thank goodness that he was able to be given a good life.


Martha and Bailey said...

As always a very thought provoking post.
We are so pleased to read Andre's story but agree these traps are wicked!
love and kisses
Martha & bailey xxx
ps we are having difficulty loading your blog at present - possibly just us - is there anything different?

Ludo van Doggy said...

How amazing is that guy, and all the people who helped him!
You are right about the traps. They should definately be banned.
~lickies, Ludo

Sue said...

Poor fellow. No one should have to go thru that kind of an experience. He was very lucky to find good people to help him. Yea for Andre.

Anonymous said...

I HATE those traps sooo unhumane it's amazing! They def need to be outlawed!

Wonderful that Andre got legs and a great new home!!!

Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom said...

Oh my!

What a story -

Maybe we need to leave some traps like that fur those that leave them to snag innocent animals -

Tank woo fur sharing!


SEDONA said...

What a heart-warming story, guys!
Thanks for sharing.
Your pal,