Naki’o: The Bionic Dog

bionic paws, bionic dog, animal prosthetics, disabled animals

Dogs are our companions, but they also serve as great inspiration in our lives. Naki’o had a difficult start in life. However, with technological advances, Naki’o was given another chance, becoming the first dog to be fitted with a complete set of bionic paws.

As a pup, the mix-breed Naki’o and his mother were abandoned in the cellar of a foreclosed Nebraska home. When rescuers finally arrived the mother dog had died and her pup was nearly frozen in a puddle of water. He was malnourished, covered in mange, and suffered from a severe case of frostbite that affected his limbs.

Naki’o received medical treatment immediately, but they couldn’t save his four paws and the tip of his tail. He was left with stumps and since he couldn’t walk, Naki’o had to crawl on his belly. But his enthusiasm for life warmed the hearts of many, including veterinarian assistant Christie Pace of Colorado Springs. She adopted Naki’o when he was eight weeks old. Pace wanted to help Naki’o by buying him animal prosthetics.

The History of Prosthetics

Prosthetics have been common among humans for centuries. A prosthetic toe, made of wood and leather, was found on a 3,000 year-old mummified noblewoman in Cairo, Egypt. And ancient writings claimed that Roman general, Marcus Sergius, replaced the hand he lost in battle with one made of iron. Though human prosthetics have a long history, animal prosthetics are a rather new. It’s only recently that humans have been able to help all kinds of disabled animals, like Fuji the dolphin and her prosthetic fin, Yu the turtle and her prosthetic legs, and Motala the Asian elephant and her prosthetic leg.

In 2003, Martin Kaufmann founded Orthopets, the Denver company that built Naki’o’s prosthetics. Kaufmann was inspired by his cousin’s dog, Wilt, who couldn’t use his front leg after a stroke. It was then that Kaufmann decided to bring his knowledge of human prosthetics to animals. Orthopets create brace and prosthetic solutions for elbows, knees, paws, etc. Animal prosthetics can be expensive, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 each. Pace raised funds and was able to obtain two new back legs for Naki’o, since his back legs suffered the most damage. Naki’o loved them so much that Orthopets created prosthetics for his front legs for free.

The animal prosthetics are made with mountain bike tires, which mimics the movements of muscles and bones. Naki’o can now play (running, jumping, and swimming) like any other dog. His success has inspired Christie Pace. She’s in the process of starting a rescue organization called Naki’o’s Underdog Rescue, which works to find loving homes for disabled cats and dogs.