Cassidy was found aimlessly wandering the streets in the Bronx, New York some three years ago. He was picked up and taken to a local animal shelter where he was examined and found to be in sad shape. Not only was he missing his right hind leg, he was virtually hairless and some 30 pounds underweight.
I suppose Cassidy’s story may have ended there; not too many people want to rescue a stray with such issues. Fate, however, had something else in store for this German shepherd mix with the great disposition. I learned of Cassidy’s plight through a pet segment in a morning television program and I have to admit that there were tears in my eyes
at the end of the report. I knew I had to help. I contacted the shelter, adopted Cassidy, and brought him home to become a member of the Posovsky household joining me, my wife Susan, and Bella, our Rhodesian Ridgeback.
We cared for Cassidy. He regained his hair, his weight went back up to 75 pounds, and he became fast friends with Bella. Cassidy and Bella played well together and tug-of-war was a favorite game. Cassidy would tire easily, however, and I noticed that Bella, who is bigger and stronger with her four legs, would let the three-legged Cassidy win. I decided
to look into the prospect of getting Cassidy a new limb to further improve the quality of his life.
All roads in my search seemed to lead to the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine and to Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little, an associate professor of orthopedics and an orthopedic surgeon in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. After a lengthy phone conversation with Dr. Marcellin-Little, we drove to Raleigh for Cassidy to be examined and for us to learn what might be done for our three-legged dog.
Susan and I appreciated Dr. Marcellin-Little’s “surgery as a last resort” philosophy. He measured Cassidy and then during a two-year period fabricated and tried to fit Cassidy with not one but two removable prosthetic limbs that attached to his truncated right hind leg by straps or sleeves. The active Cassidy was able to slip out of both of them.
It was then that Dr. Marcellin-Little talked with us about Cassidy being an appropriate candidate for a new surgical approach involving osseointegration, a cutting-edge technology through which the living bone fuses with a prosthesis. We agreed to the surgery, understanding that Cassidy would be the first dog to undergo the procedure. Dr. Marcellin-
Little and the faculty and students at the NC State College of Engineering then began creating models and the actual prosthetic limb. Finally, after a year of waiting, we received the telephone call that informed us Cassidy’s team was ready. We could schedule the surgery.
The staff at the CVM Veterinary Teaching Hospital was as excited as we were. Cassidy became a media celebrity and patiently met with newspaper and television reporters who wanted to see him before his big surgery. Cassidy has one quirk and I told Dr. Marcellin-Little and the VTH staff that he could not be left in a cage. He hates it. They made every
accommodation to keep him in ICU after surgery, surrounded by caring people 24/7.
The concern and the care given to Cassidy was extremely comforting to me and Susan. While we knew this procedure had never been done on a dog, Dr. Marcellin-Little assured us that this was not an experiment. During that year of waiting he worked with engineers to develop the perfect limb for Cassidy. Computed tomography scans helped engineers create three-dimensional computer images and then the physical models.
Dr. Marcellin-Little used the models to practice the procedure, making minute adjustments to ensure a perfect fit before the actual surgery. He rehearsed this particular surgery numerous times on models of Cassidy’s leg, to assure that all would go well.
Dr. Marcellin-Little’s professional skill and the compassion he shows for animals has been very comforting to us. Cassidy is a family member, of course, and holds a special place in our hearts, particularly when I think of his journey from the streets of the Bronx.
I hope Cassidy’s story can let others know of the great work being accomplished at North Carolina State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. This important work deserves to be supported for in helping our four-legged family members who we all love so much, we enhance our own lives. Read about Cassidy’s story in Scientific American.