UW-Madison students design cart for dog without front legs

Louie was born without his front legs

First-year engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison designed a cart for Louie, a dog born without front legs.

According to a release, Louie’s owners, Pat and Pete Sammataro, contacted Katie Kalscheur, a lecturer of an interdisciplinary freshman design course at the College of Engineering in early 2019 after hearing about past students’ work to create prosthetic legs for Sgt. Stubbs, a cat who lost his two hind legs in a train accident.

The course gives first-year students an opportunity to learn engineering through hands-on experience. Students were split into teams to take on projects.

“I know a lot of engineering students from a lot of colleges across the country, and we’re the only ones I know of who are tackling real-life engineering projects for real people right away,” Jonah Herman, a freshman biomedical engineering student on the seven-person team building the cart, said.

Louie is a 4-year-old Nova Scotia duck trolling retriever mix. Pete Sammataro says Louie was born to a breeder in Atlanta, Georgia, who planned to euthanize him. Louie lived with the niece of a friend to the Sammataro family until she had to travel overseas for a summer. The couple decided to take in Louie after hearing about him.

The family hoped a cart would give Louie a chance at enhanced mobility, the release said.

“We just want him to be able to go on walks and sniff around the neighborhood like any other dog,” Pat Sammataro said. “It will really enhance his quality of life.”

Herman says they planned to make modifications to a commercially available cart the Sammataros bought for Louie since the cart didn’t suit Louie.

The team ended up removing about half of the cart and adjusted it so it could tilt forward to accommodate Louie’s posture, and also added small wheels for stability. The students further added padding and gave him a calming vest to get him used to the cart.

“This group of students has been wonderful,” Pat Sammataro said. “They came up with a design that’s impressive and stable, and stability was a problem with the old one we had. Their design is amazing, and now it’s up to us to work with Louie and get him used to it.”

Louie is still getting used to the cart and will walk in it with some guiding and dog treat encouragement.

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