Calf has two old legs and two new legs
Calf has two old legs and two new legs Kitty Martin, below, snuggles Hero after he was fitted with new prosthetic legs
Calf has two old legs and two new legs
Lexile: 1260L

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Hot and tired from a three-hour drive inside a trailer behind a pickup truck, the 600-pound English Charolais calf was content to lay on the grass behind a south Houston building while a team of technicians worked on its hind legs.

When the calf known as Hero heard its name called, the 15-month-old gingerly got up, unsteadily rocked a bit, then waddled away, tail wagging, eyes wide and tongue licking. It headed across a patch of concrete toward an appetizing snack of green shrubbery a few yards away.

Hero became what may be the nation's only double-amputee calf with prosthetics on Wednesday when fitted for a new pair of high-tech devices attached to its back legs.

"I'm so proud," Hero's caretaker, Kitty Martin, exclaimed. "Look at you!"

It's the latest step in a year-long effort that has taken Martin and the animal from Virginia, where she rescued it last year from an Augusta County farm where it succumbed to frostbite that claimed its hooves, to Texas. Animal surgeons at Texas A&M University treated Hero for several months and affixed the initial prosthetics that the calf now had outgrown.

"This is our first cow," Erin O'Brien, an orthotist and prosthetist for Hanger Inc., an Austin-based national firm that makes prosthetic limbs. She was among a team of about eight people working on the project for about two weeks.

"We did a lot of study of photos and video of cows just regular walking to see what it looks like and see if we can mimic that biomechanically," O'Brien said. "It's unusual, yes, but an opportunity."

Surgeons at Texas A&M accepted Martin's initial pleas for help, removing about two inches of bone to enable them to create a pad of tissue that would allow for prosthetics.

"Until I worked on him, I hadn't ever done it before. And I'd not heard of (prosthetics) before in a bovine," said Ashlee Watts, an equine orthopedic surgeon at the school.

Martin figures she has spent nearly $40,000 to save the calf.

"I don't know how to explain it," she said. "I'm an animal rescuer. And he had everything against him."

Hero's hooves are custom made of urethane and titanium, the connecting components are titanium and carbon fiber and the sockets that attach to his legs are carbon fiber and acrylic resin. Martin and O'Brien declined to discuss the cost, but estimated that similar devices for humans go for between $4,000 and $8,000 apiece.

Hero's sockets are painted with black and white cow spots. "Holstein legs," O'Brien laughed.

"We like to customize legs to the person's personality," she said.

Martin, 53, a former veterinary technician and retired truck driver originally from Dalhart, in the Texas Panhandle, is moving with her husband from Greenville, Virginia, to Cameron in Central Texas. She's hoping Hero, who could grow to 1,500 pounds, can be a therapy animal for wounded veterans and special needs children.

"It makes my day," Martin said. "He's got a very bright future right now."

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  • josea-Koc
    5/25/2014 - 12:21 p.m.

    This is very confused for me how can a calf have old legs and new legs also? They study and tooked a lot of photos of the calfs legs to examine it.

  • brianae-Koc
    5/27/2014 - 02:34 a.m.

    This is cute. I think animals deserve the same treatments as humans. We are all equal in this world and I believe we should help others. Honestly what makes us any better than others. It just gives you a great feeling knowing you've made the world a little better.

  • christopherh-Koc
    5/27/2014 - 03:08 a.m.

    This story is truly beautiful and and inspiring. It's nice to see that people care that much about animals such as myself. Giving that calf the ability to walk is a miracle.

  • jesseh-Koc
    5/27/2014 - 03:25 a.m.

    I think that is is really cool they do this. They are making it so the calf can still walk and have a normal life. Everyone deserves to have a normal life.

  • lisal-Koc
    5/27/2014 - 08:56 a.m.

    It's cool to see how if there are problems with health or anything people can fix it. Even with animals so many animals have disabilities and to see that you can put fake legs on a cow is pretty amazing.

  • orahf-
    5/27/2014 - 12:53 p.m.

    The story was about a calf that had frost bite on his back legs. They gave the calf two new hind legs. I think that it was a good idea to put two new legs on the calf so the calf could walk. This helped the a doctors learn how to do it on a cow which had never been done before. (Please fix the last sentence)

  • bobbyb-
    5/27/2014 - 01:09 p.m.

    The story is about a calf that got frostbite from being out in the cold weather. They have to amputate his back legs and give him prosthetic legs. It was a very expensive thing. It will help the calf because he has four legs.

  • galvinc-
    5/27/2014 - 01:13 p.m.

    This story is about a calf named Hero, that had two old legs and two new legs . He got prosthetic legs. He got a very bright future right now. I hope he helps those special needs children . He got frostbites being in the cold weather.

  • brady.q-
    5/27/2014 - 01:20 p.m.

    The story is all about a calf that got frostbite from being in the cold. They put prosthetic legs on his back legs. I think they had lots of cash to buy the prosthetic legs for the calf. I feel bad for the poor thing.

  • EthanH-5
    5/27/2014 - 07:32 p.m.

    Hero, a 15 month old calf, was fitted with prosthetics on her two hind legs. She suffered from frostbite and had a portion of both her rear legs amputated. She was rescued by Kitty Martin, a retired veterinary assistant, who spent nearly $40,000 on her prosthetic legs. She is hoping that her cow can be used as a therapy animal for wounded veterans or special needs children.

    Hero is so lucky that Kitty Martin took on her case and saved her. It seems crazy to spend so much money on a cow, but if she can help veterans or special needs children, then it's money well spent.

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