Tue, Dec 4 2012 02:49 | News
Meet Bella - the bionic llama.
When she got in to an accident, they decided they could rebuild her – they had the technology.
And that’s when Michael Carlson, a prosthetist with Hanger Clinic stepped in.
And now the three-legged llama from Newcastle, California, is standing on her own feet once more. Well, mostly.
The dire llama crises was averted when she got a new rear limb.
A specialist at creating prosthetic limbs for people, built what may be the first artificial limb for a llama. The new fake leg means that every morning, when her owner straps the prosthesis on Bella, the first thing she does is scratch.
The black-and-white llama steadies on her two front legs and the new prosthesis – and she uses the remaining back leg to scratch her belly.
It's sweet relief to Bella and brings a smile to her owners, Chuck Robuck and Trish Brandt-Robuck, who have about 40 other llamas in addition to 13-year-old Bella.
"I barely get that leg on and she goes to scratch," said Brandt-Robuck. "They are lovely animals. After a stressful day, watching them allows you to totally unwind."
About two years ago, Bella stepped into a gopher hole, breaking a back leg. After more than two years of trying to get the leg to heal, signs of infection began, requiring amputation about half-way up the leg, a local paper reports.
Initially, Bella tried to use three legs, but after a while, the show-quality animal didn't get up, which meant the llama would have to be euthanized.
That's when Brandt-Robuck decided to walk into the Hanger Clinic offices of Michael Carlson in Auburn.
Carlson usually works with humans, but he went to the Brandt-Robuck property week after week, sometime staying all day with Bella. He developed three prototypes before the third one worked.
The llama was lifted with a tractor and harness, and a mould of her remaining hind leg was cast.
She had to learn to accept the prosthesis, which is held in place by a waist belt for six to eight hours a day, depending on how long she can tolerate it.
"She was a pleasure to work with," Carlson said. "No bites and no spits."
Founded by a Civil War amputee, Hanger Clinic is the same nationwide company that made a prosthetic tail for a bottlenose dolphin named Winter that was featured in a film called "Dolphin Tale." Winter was injured in a crab trap in 2005 but now can swim again thanks to a tail fluke fashioned by two Florida-based Hanger experts.
Brandt-Robuck envisions the day when Bella will be a therapeutic animal. Bella is being trained to walk backwards and step through a hula hoop.
"We would like to take her to where kids are having trouble with prosthetic devices," Brandt-Robuck said. "I'm training her to get into my van."
Bella is also likely to be bred again, having already produced two grand champions.
"She has another 10 years ahead of her," said Brandt-Robuck.
With thanks to Axel Bührmann, orazal, lucianvenutian, Veronique Debord, quinn.anya for creative commons use of pictures