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And, He’s Off! 3D-Printed Legs Allow Disabled Husky to Run for the First Time

Born with underdeveloped legs, Derby now uses his high-tech prosthetics to do anything and everything other dogs can.

Jeff Goldberg  |  Dec 18th 2014


We often take the most basic elements for our lives –- and the lives of our beloved pets -– for granted. What could be more of a given than taking our dog for a walk around the neighborhood or at the local park?

Then there was Derby. Born with under-developed front limbs, the Husky mix could not walk properly on his own, if at all. Because of his disability, Derby was nearly put down as a puppy. He ultimately wound up at the Peace and Paws Dog Rescue shelter in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, where fate stepped in to change his life, and perhaps the lives of disabled animals around the world.

Derby, a rescue dog from New Hampshire, was born with under-developed front legs.

Derby, a rescue dog from New Hampshire, was born with under-developed front legs.

Tara Anderson heard of Derby’s plight and agreed to foster him. But Anderson was no ordinary kind soul helping a homeless dog with special needs. Anderson worked for 3D Systems, a company that specializes in 3-D printing, and after setting Derby up in a wheelchair-like contraption, she put her know-how and resources toward creating prosthetic legs with the technology.

The result was a pair of oval-shaped treaded “legs,” allowing Derby to not just walk like a normal dog, but to run for the first time in his life.

Derby walks on his prosthetic legs, created through 3-D printing technology.

Derby walks on his prosthetic legs, created through 3-D printing technology.

“The great thing about using 3D technology in Derby’s case, is having these images on file on a computer, and being able to print them,” Kevin Atkins, 3D Systems’ Freeform Product Manager, told Engadget.com. “[It] is a lot quicker than having to hand-sculpt every single mold and rebuild these braces five to 10 times.”

And while his legs got a boost, so did Derby’s heart. Sherry and Dom Portanova provided Derby with his forever home, where he routinely goes for runs in the neighborhood, just like any dog.

“It was incredible and emotional the first time we saw him run on his new legs,” Sherry told TheDodo.com. “Incredible, because it was his very first time on them and emotional, because he was so excited to be running.”

Via Engadget and The Dodo

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About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).