It’s dark. It’s cold. Many of us are mentally preparing for the onslaught of loud relatives who never saw a glass of wine they didn’t like. It’s the time of year that demands a few feel-good stories, and hey, who doesn’t like those? But there’s a problem with them. A pretty big problem. Let’s be honest – too many of them are about humans. And really, what’s the point? Humans aren’t cute. Humans aren’t cuddly. I don’t care about some guy discovering the true meaning of Christmas. Where are the adorable animals that defied the odds?
Look no further.
What’s great about feel-good animal stories is you get some variety. We’ve got puppies and turtles, big birds and little piggies. All of them were dealt a blow by the cruel hand of fate. All of them were saved thanks to medical science and a bunch are now rocking some sweet upgrades. Check ‘em out.
15 Naki’o the Dog
More often now, we’re seeing animals overcome terrible illness or injury by wearing a prosthetic limb. Naki’o is a beast apart, though. Naki’o has four.
Nicknamed “the bionic dog,” Naki’o was fitted with four artificial legs after losing his paws to frostbite. The odds were against him, but a veterinary assistant at the clinic he was brought to decided to keep the poor little puppy, giving him a home for him to drag himself around.
When he grew big enough that his injuries caused consistent pain, his owner raised money for prosthetic limbs. He now runs and plays like any other dog.
14 Septimus the Tortoise
This poor guy was the victim of a rat attack in the middle of his winter nap. After the rodents chewed off his front legs and left him a maggot-infested mess of infection, it was looking like he would have to be put down. Of course, that was until it was decided to give him wheels.
We’re not knocking real wheels – whatever gets you from A to B is fine – but there’s something special about having wheels up front. It’s made all the cooler because this guy is a tortoise and the idea of seeing him zipping around is the best thing ever.
13 Chris P. Bacon the Pig
After Septimus, all the wheeled animals are playing for second place. And that’s okay. But nobody can touch Chris P. Bacon the pig when it comes to having the best name in all of animaldom.
A teeny tiny pig, Bacon was born with malformed hind legs. While he got around okay on just two, he was eventually outfitted with wheels to give him the extra flavour-enhancing mobility he needed.
While at first Bacon was using a rig put together with K'nex, eventually his weight forced his owner to pick up a special wheelchair device for his pet. Chris is also the star of a few picture books.
12 Frank and Louie the Cat
These two (really just one) died this month, but his longevity is something that should be celebrated. He was what is called a “Janus cat,” and while he looked like a conjoined twin, he really just had twice as much face.
Typically, an animal like this dies within a few hours of birth. Frank and Louie lived to be 15 before getting put down while suffering from cancer.
According to his owners, he acted like a normal cat his entire life, with all the destruction and cuddling that entails. Hopefully he was extra nice to his humans, for obvious reasons.
11 Kabang the Dog
Poor Kabang just wanted to save her humans from an incoming motorcycle. She leapt out in front of her owner’s two daughters, who were 9 and 3, knocking the motorcycle over and saving them from serious harm. In the process, she caught her face on a tire and had the top of her snout crushed.
She was flown to America for treatment after news of her rescue of the girls went viral. Before she could get the surgery, it was discovered that she had heartworms and cancer, which were then cured before the work could be done.
Finally, with all the work done that could be, Kabang was sent back home to the Philippines to be with her family.
10 Chhouk The Elephant
We’ve got lots of little critters on this list, but only one heffalump. They need love too, and Chhouk more than most.
Chhouk was found in Cambodia as a baby, front left foot missing and presumed taken by a poacher’s trap. Infection forced even more of the stump to be removed, and despite the assistance of specialists, Chhouk was having a difficult time walking around.
Enter the prosthetic. Now Chhouk can walk and run and do all the things elephants love to do – pain free. He now spends his days with his friend Lucky, another elephant, at the Wildlife Alliance’s Cambodia Rescue Center.
9 Cassidy the Dog
Cassidy’s got a special thing going on. See, where a lot of prosthetics are removable, Cassidy’s is fused right to the bone of his leg. Researchers are hoping it’s a technique that could hopefully be used in humans.
This came about because of Cassidy’s stubbornness. Some animals are cool with wearing artificial limbs, but Cassidy was not. The solution, apparently, was to not give the dog a choice.
The process had been done before, but only ever on cats. The fact that it works for a larger animal, and works as well as it does, suggests that similar work could eventually be done for humans.
8 Dudley the Duck
Dudley’s story starts out sad, but gets a lot cooler. As a duckling, he and his brother were attacked by a gang of chickens. His brother died and Dudley lost his leg, which made mobility an issue.
Enter a mechanical engineer with a 3d printer. The guy designed a prosthetic for Dudley, and has continued to refine the design as Dudley grows and begins to need new ones.
Now Dudley has found himself a Mrs. and is able to walk and run to his heart’s content. Terence Loring, the guy responsible for Dudley’s new limb, put the designs up online and hopes to help more animals however he can.
7 Wheely Willy the Dog
Wheely Willy’s story starts out weally sad. Paralyzed and with his vocal cords cut, Willy the Chihuahua was forced to stay at an animal hospital and wait for somebody to want him.
Eventually, a pet store owner brought him home and eventually got Willy his wheels so he could race around like he wanted to.
Now Willy is the star of children’s books and spends much of his time teaching kids about how to treat animals with love. He also visits hospitals and convalescent care facilities. He’s proof that bad situations can turn good with a little help and a lot of perseverance.
6 Roosevelt the Dog
Roosevelt with born with deformed front legs, making it difficult to get around. Of course, like the other animals on this list, Roosevelt found a way.
His family got him a special wheeled harness to wear, which he uses to run around chasing balls and sticks and whatever else. Dog stuff.
If you watch his video, check out how his front legs are still trying to run even when they’re not able to touch the ground. This is clearly an animal that loves to be active, making the fact that he can do regular dog things that much more touching.
5 Winter the Dolphin
Imagine a bird, free to fly where it pleases... and then its wings get clipped. That’s pretty close to what happened to Winter the dolphin.
Caught in a crab trap, Winter lost her tail and was left swimming with an odd swishing movement. That’s until the Clearwater Marine Aquarium fitted her with a prosthetic. Now winter is an international film star, subject of a book, and a major attraction in her home.
It took over a year to design the prosthetic, which is made of plastic and silicone and includes a gel pad to keep the attachment from rubbing uncomfortably against Winter’s skin. Parts of the design have been adopted by some human prosthetics makers.
4 Derby the Dog
Derby’s got some super weird, super cool new feet. Or rather, elbow pads. See, Derby has a deformity that makes moving around on all fours a painful, difficult process. First he was given wheels, and while that worked okay, it was still a bit too limiting for the pup. Derby loves to run around.
So elbow cups were printed up for him, made with a mix of materials that allowed them to sit comfortably on his elbows while also being able to take the abuse of a dog running around like a maniac. Derby gets to release a bit of his puppy energy, and we all get to see how adorable he is doing it.
3 Beauty the Bald Eagle
There have been plenty of injuries on this list cured with wheels and prosthetics. All very impressive. But there’s something special about fixing up a bald eagle’s beak with a polymer replacement. It’s a weapon, eating tool, and distinctive facial feature all in one.
Beauty was the victim of an attack by a poacher, one that left the upper portion of her beak destroyed, and left her starving and unable to eat like a normal eagle. She recovered on a liquid diet, but that was a temporary solution at best. A kind engineer with access to a 3d printer stepped up to save the day, taking a mold of Beauty’s beak and creating a replacement.
Beauty continues to thrive in the Birds of Prey Northwest sanctuary.
2 Allison the Turtle
Sea turtles can live a really long time, so it’s a good thing that she’s been fitted with a fin that will let her do so comfortably.
Allison was injured, likely by a shark, and left without one of the flippers she needs to get around. As a result she was stuck spinning in circles when she tried to swim. That was until a team created a special fin that would let her get around with a bit more ease.
She can’t live her long life in the wild, but she’s better off now than she was, and is a fine example of the power of animals to adapt.
1 Lazarus the Dog
Lazarus doesn’t have an incredible prosthetic, but he is immortal, and that’s kind of cool. Alright, not actually immortal, but still pretty incredible.
Lazarus was hit by a car and brought to an animal shelter. He recovered, and that’s neat, but not out of the ordinary. So far, so normal. When nobody wanted to adopt him, he was given an injection to put him down. Sad, but still normal.
What’s not normal is that the next morning he was up, walking around, and just generally being a living dog. A bit unsteady, apparently, but still alive. The story got out and Lazarus was quickly adopted, probably because the family wanted to bask in reflected glory.