Prosthetic leg gives injured dog new leash on life

  • May. 5, 2017 12:30 a.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — You can barely notice the Labrador retriever’s limp as she runs outside a veterinary clinic. But Maggie has a prosthetic leg, which was fitted after a crash last November that nearly killed her.

The dog’s doctor and surgeon, Jennifer Bibevski, said Tuesday she’s surprised how quickly Maggie recovered and got used to the new leg.

“Maggie took to it amazingly,” said Bibevski, of Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists. “She just wants to get out and run. It’s much better than we anticipated and she’s the perfect candidate.”

The adjustment period was quick, Bibevski said, partly because Labradors have the right attitude, including a willingness to work and a desire to run and play.

While prosthetics for animals are becoming more common, they’re still rare, mostly because of the price. The custom-designed prosthetic, along with multiple surgeries, cost about $20,000 and took about five weeks to make.

Luckily for Maggie and her owner, John Brophy, she’s a popular dog in her Las Olas Isles neighborhood. Donations poured in from neighbors, friends, family and the hospital, which has a fund to help patients cover costs.

The big smile and wagging tail in the lobby of the veterinary clinic is a sharp change from the day the crash happened Nov. 22, 2016.

A friend was walking Maggie when the Labrador stepped into the road near a hedge, and a truck slammed into her.

Meanwhile, Brophy was in the backyard. His friend ran to tell him Maggie had been hit.

Brophy rushed to the street to find the truck driver holding his dog. Brophy wrapped Maggie’s leg in his shirt, picked her up and put her in his truck. He took off, not sure where he was driving.

He called a friend who told him to go to Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists. About halfway there, Maggie started to fade.

“She had gone into shock. Her tongue was just kind of hanging out, her eyes were rolling back,” Brophy said. “I definitely thought I was losing her.”

For the next two days, Brophy didn’t see Maggie. She remained hospitalized as doctors put her in a coma before surgery.

The dog would spend about three weeks in intensive care at the clinic. In the end, Bibevski had to amputate the leg.

It was a difficult time for Brophy, a retired Navy SEAL who grew close to Maggie during her three years as a service dog, helping Brophy’s mother who had dementia.

Maggie could survive without the prosthetic but over time, walking with three legs would likely cause hip problems for her, Bibevski said.

Aside from having to lose some weight, Maggie is ready for full activity and will see doctors only for periodic rechecks and any minor adjustments that may be needed.

Brophy said he’s thankful for everything the clinic has done for his dog.

“That’s what we’re here for,” Bibevski said about getting Maggie back up and running. “Anything that we can do to help the pets and their owners, is what makes our day successful.”

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