Rescue Pup Goes from Three Legs to Four

A former shelter dog receives one of the world's first permanent prosthetic limbs.

When Steve Posovsky goes for walks through his Florida beach community with pup Cassidy, the pooch gets a lot of looks. “We can’t walk into the street without people stopping us to say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before!’ ” he tells PEOPLE Pets. The reaction is no surprise: Cassidy is one of the first dogs in the country to receive a permanent prosthetic limb.

Posovsky rescued Cassidy on a whim while in New York City in 2005. While at home watching the morning news, he saw a three-legged dog up for adoption. “He was found wandering in the Bronx, and brought to a shelter, where he would’ve been euthanized,” says Posovsky, a retired dentist who now lives in Delray Beach, Fla. “I wrote down the phone number, and went to the shelter that day.”

Nervous to tell his wife he’d adopted yet another pet – he’s fostered and adopted dogs, cats and birds over the years – he convinced her he’d found the pooch on the street. “I called her on her cell phone, and I screamed into the phone, ‘Susan you’re not going to believe this! There’s a dog that just ran out into the street in front of my car! I stopped, saw he had three legs, and he came right over to me, and I brought him home,’” Posovsky recalls. “She suggested taking him to a no-kill shelter, but I knew no one would adopt him.” So, he became theirs. A month later – after Susan had fallen deeply in love with the underweight, patchy-haired pup – Posovsky told her the truth. “She wasn’t mad,” he says with a laugh.

The dog was only 2 years old at the time, with years of walking and running ahead of him. “I was worried his other legs could go bad, and then what would we do?” Posovsky says. “So I started doing my research.”

Through the Internet and recommendations from veterinarians, he discovered that North Carolina State University was doing cutting-edge research on prosthetic limbs for animals, and doctors at the school said they’d see Cassidy. After a three-and-a-half-year process that involved several trips to the school for fittings and surgeries, Cassidy received a removable prosthesis, made of titanium, carbon fiber and rubber and attached to his leg by a titanium implant fused to his thighbone. Though the leg can screw on and off, the implant will stay intact forever.

North Carolina State plans to create seven or eight more prosthetic limbs for animals before trying the process on humans – specifically war veterans.

As for Cassidy, Posovsky says the dog is comfortable with his new limb and is running around Delray Beach with the family and their other rescue dog, Bella. “When I rescued him, all I wanted to do was save his life,” says Posovsky. “Who thought this would turn out the way it did?”

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