Dogs with special needs are incredibly adaptable, in spite of their limitations.
They are loving and can bring happiness to their owners’ lives. Sadly, many special needs animals can’t find a suitable home and face a much greater risk of being put down because of their particular needs. That’s where Amy Jo Martin and many rescue groups step in.
Amy Jo Martin is an elderly attorney in Wilkes County, North Carolina. She is self-employed and has been involved in dog rescue for over 25 years. In the beginning, she adopted big dogs with her roommate, and then moved to adopt only senior dogs because she realized many of them could not find suitable homes due to them being “too old”.
Martin’s first adopted dog is a tripod German Shepherd named Nick. Nick’s adaption to being three-legged relieved Amy’s concerns in handling the dogs that need special care, and also inspired her to adopt different special needs dogs.
Little Jett is one of the cutest dogs! He was only 1.7 pounds (0.7kg) and had not only neurological issues, but also rear leg deformities when he was adopted. Martin and her roommate have struggled to find mobility equipment to assist this Little Jett with his awkward gait. They tested products from several different companies that made small carts, but found none fit Jett’s tiny body.
“That’s when I realized how helpful a 3d printer would be. Last Christmas, my family bought me my first 3D printer, the Anycubic Mega S, which I LOVE! After a little trial and error, I made Jett a quad wheelchair. Granted, it wasn’t fancy or ‘pretty’, but it worked for him – and that’s what mattered.‘’
How could a 3D printed wheelchair benefit this puppy, which has an underdeveloped leg, born without a paw and a shorter leg? Martin continued:
“A properly-fitted 3D printed wheelchair could help a puppy learn how to walk normally on all four legs, and would assist the puppy with its gait as well as bone and soft tissue development. In addition, the 3D printed wheelchair is inexpensive to make, can be replaced with a larger one as the puppy grows. Once the puppy gets to full-grown size, the owner can invest in a professionally-made prosthetic.”
The 3D printed wheelchair helped Jett master walking on his rear knees, which also helps with his sense of balance, and he is pretty fast when moving across the room to play with his siblings!
Jett also has a cerebellar disorder – meaning the portion of his brain that involves his coordination and sense of balance wasn’t fully developed prior to birth. It leads him to walk very “wonky.” In addition, Chihuahuas often have open fontanels (‘soft spots’ on the skull), making it dangerous if they fall and bump their head on the unprotected part of their skulls. Add a “wonky” walk and balance issues to that, and you have a dog that bumps his head a lot. So Jett needed a helmet to protect his head when he was learning to walk.
After finding nothing about the helmet online, Amy planned to make one by her newly received Anycubic Vyper 3D Printer. It’s an FFF 3D printer that has many useful features and provides a beginner-friendly experience. It enabled Martin to build her prints very well in a short time. She made two different types of helmets for Jett.
Original design by Brucho design studio based in Honduras
‘’Just like a leg prosthetic, if a puppy is growing, it will need a helmet that can be inexpensively replaced as its head grows. Once the pup is full-grown, then the owner can have a helmet made by a professional.’’
Using a 3D printer made her realize she could do more than just adopt special needs dogs. She wanted to loan out her extra dog wheelchairs to people who need them for the short term, and help others who are in the same situation as she with Little Jett.
‘’I would love to see others get interested in 3d printing. You don’t have to be a young person; you don’t have to have a lot of computer experience; you don’t have to be a male; you just need a desire to help. I would love to have more people like me get a group together (much like the now-disbanded ‘The CAP Project’) to help special animals by providing mobility items. I would love to learn from people who have more knowledge than I do. I would love to have people offering to help create STLs that can be used in non-profit ways. I would love 3D printer companies to take an interest in people who are using their printers to help others (filament is always needed).”
“Anycubic has been so wonderful to me! Through my new Facebook friend, Rebecca Clark, Anycubic has just sent me 2 brand new Vyper 3D printers to help me make these items. I am so very grateful and excited to see how many animals I can help with these printers! And finally, I would love for more people to understand that just because an animal has a mobility or medical issue, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a wonderful quality of life.’’
Martin also advised anyone interested in adopting a special needs dog to watch a short video of her story:
If you are not ready to adopt a special needs dog yet, you can also consider fostering them.
Here are the groups that you could connect with:
- Lovey Loaves Special Needs Rescue
- Canine Castaways, Inc.
- Mutt Misfits Animal Rescue
- Perfectly Imperfect Pets Rescue
And to catch up on Amy Jo Martin’s story, here is her facebook page.