PFLUGERVILLE, Texas - Students in an engineering class at Connally High School are working to create a mobility aid for a three-legged dog. They're making their own device from start to finish and they will get to see how their idea meets the needs of the 11-year-old mutt.
Pirate, a Dalmatian/Labrador mix was adopted from a shelter in Washington state. When the shelter staff found him, he was missing a foot that they believe could have been caught in a bear trap.
Katrina Dvorcek met Pirate at the shelter and instantly knew he would be a great addition to her family.
“We fell in love with him immediately and took him home that day and that was about a week and a half after his amputation actually,” Dvorcek said.
A severe injury to Pirate's back foot required amputation of his whole leg, but for Katrina that made him even more lovable.
“The first couple of years that we had him it was definitely easy for him to get around and he was actually faster than a lot of other dogs when it came to running around at the dog parks,” said Dvorcek.
But lately Pirate's missing limb has started to become more of a health issue.
“He's regressing quickly now that he's becoming older in terms of hip dysplasia as well as some arthritis issues,” Dvorcek said.
To keep Pirate on his feet, Katrina and her boyfriend, Bryant Meador, started looking into prosthetics, but every option they found came with a hefty price tag. Then Katrina reached out to her friend, a teacher at Connally High School. That teacher suggested having an engineering class build a mobility aid from scratch and both parties agreed.
“You can't make everything real, so when the chance like this comes along, it's great and they jumped on it quick. I threw the idea out there and they're like, oh yeah, we want to do that,” said engineering teacher Theodore Moldenhauer.
“It's so expensive when your dog doesn't have that because you have to have medicine and treatments, so if something like this can help, of course I want to do it,” said Alondra Escamilla, a junior at Connally High School.
Over the next few weeks students measured, brainstormed and sketched their ideas to make Pirate's life a little smoother.
“They're developing three unique products and when we get to the end, this is the fun part, we'll let the Meador’s, the owners, decide which one they like best,” Moldenhauer said.
From a wheelchair to a full prosthetic leg, students are creating prototypes with the help of their teacher and a 3-D printer.
In about a month they will get to see if their creations paid off.
“It's going to extend his life and it's going to change his life dramatically just being able to go outside again and being able to walk normally,” said Dvorcek.