(Picture Credit: Roz Bannan / Getty Images)
Students in Charlotte, North Carolina, have created a prosthesis for their teacher’s three-legged Golden Retriever.
Ashley Liberto has been a dog mom to Bentley since she first got him as a puppy eight years ago. “He follows me around the house. He’s so full of life and energy, and he just loves everybody,” she told PEOPLE.
However, he began limping a few months ago. At first, the vet thought it was arthritis, but after his elbow swelled he had an X-ray and the vet found a soft tissue sarcoma. After an MRI scan and biopsy confirmed cancer, Bailey needed to have the limb amputated.
Adapting to Three Legs
Ashley, who teaches middle school math at Providence Day School, described it as “emotionally exhausting”, but fortunately the surgery was successful – it looks as though the cancer has been removed completely.
The vets told Ashley it’d take around two weeks for Bentley to recover, but he adapted quickly. “We have a tennis court, and the second day he was home, he pulled me to the tennis court to get balls to play. He just has this will to live,” she explained.
She began joining support groups for pups missing limbs and looking into prosthetics. But, with the cost involved, she decided to get in touch with some of her former students.
At Providence Day School, there’s a computer-aided design and 3D printing class. While it’s an introductory-level class, the students were excited to work on creating a prosthesis for Bentley.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for the students to see a real-world application for what they’re learning at school,” said teacher Todd Johnson. “I knew once the students wrapped their heads around it, they would come up with designs that are viable solutions.”
“A Real Connection”
The students split into small groups to create designs. The winning group was led by Brandon Hollis, who took 6th-grade math with Ashley.
“There was a very real connection just seeing Bentley when he came into class, and knowing I was going to be able to help him was something special,” said Brandon. And as for the prosthetic leg and harness, “it fit way better than I could have hoped for,” he said. “It still needs some slight tweaks, and then it should fit perfectly.”
In just a few short weeks, the prosthesis should be ready for Bentley – and even though the class has ended, many of the students have continued with the project outside of school.
“Oh my gosh, seeing what they came up with was so moving. I cried,” said Ashley. “Our kids are so smart, and the fact they can take what they’re learning in the classroom and see it in real-life scenarios — it’s really moving.”