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Scott D. Pierce: Would you adopt a pet pig on wheels?

By Scott D. Pierce

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Apr 05 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Apr 09 2014 09:07 am

Len Lucero did not intend to adopt a pet pig. Let alone one that he had to equip with wheels.

But when the Florida veterinarian was faced with the prospect of euthanizing a baby pig with malformed back legs, he couldn’t do it.

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"Looking at this otherwise healthy animal just crawl across the exam table, it just didn’t seem right to put a healthy animal with a small disability to sleep," Lucero said.

Instead, he took the pig — later dubbed Chris P. Bacon — home for what he thought would be a temporary stay.

"I told my family that we need to find a home for this pet," Lucero said. "And without batting an eye, my wife stands up and says, ‘Well, you just found one.’ "

The vet built the piglet sort of an attachable wheelchair. Two wheels and a harness to attach it to the animal, who gets around amazingly well.

It’s one of the easier transformations in "My Bionic Pet," a fascinating episode of PBS’ "Nature" (Wednesday, 7 p.m., Ch. 7).

In addition to Chris P. Bacon, we meet Roofus, a blind golden retriever with deformed front legs; Driftwood, a border collie puppy born missing both rear feet; Molly, a pony with a prosthetic leg; an unnamed swan that gets a new beak;

Even Mr. Stubbs, and alligator whose tail was bitten off by another alligator.

"What used to be done was euthanasia," said "My Bionic Pet" producer/director Kevin Bachar. "They’re getting a second chance at life."

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It all seems a bit crazy at times. At least the gator tail.

Unless you’ve loved a dog, you can’t understand spending thousands of dollars on prosthetics to make its life better.

"He doesn’t know that there’s anything wrong with him," said Kathy Wyer, who co-fosters Roofus. "We sometimes forget that he’s blind as well as disabled.… Every day is a good day for him. He’s just a happy, cheerful guy, and he doesn’t know that anything bad happened to him or that he’s any different from any other dog."

And some of the work down creating prosthetics for animals is then applied to humans.

Martin Kaufman, the co-founder of OrthoPets, created prosthetics for humans before he began doing the same for animals. He said there are great similarities between human and animal patients, with "one major exception, and that was the willingness and the drive, determination" of the animals.

"They woke up in the morning without having to be convinced to get up and get active and get mobile. The largest challenge that we face is simply keeping up with their ambitions, and it’s just how they’re going to wake up in the morning."

There’s a heart-warming bit when Driftwood gets his new legs and immediately takes off running. No hesitation. He’s thrilled. As are his owners.

It’s amazing.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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