The Bionic Dog

‘We have the technology to rebuild him’ – that was the line associated with Lee Majors as the Bionic Man, a man who was rebuilt using the latest technology to create an indestructible man. Coal, the American Bulldog, has also been rebuilt using bionic technology, at least his front left paw.

Last year Coal had his paw amputated because of cancer, and as he also had osteoarthritis in his other three legs he would have been too weak to stand on three legs, so faced being put to sleep.

However Reg Walker, his owner, couldn’t bear to lose beloved dog and stumped up the £10,000 required to give Coal a new bionic limb. Reg is a security guard in the music business, and Coal travels with Reg to every gig, and even has own photo ID backstage pass.

The operation Coal had represented only the second time that a dog had been given a bionic limb, and his experience has helped to advance the technology for humans, in particular for victims of the summer bombings in London in 7/7. Just a few weeks ago one victim of the bombings was given a prosthetic leg in a similar procedure to the one that Coal experienced.

Coal’s owner, Reg Walker, stated:

When I found out about Coal I was gutted. He goes everywhere with me – he goes on tour, he’s the only dog to have aloowed into Live8 and the only dog that has ever been backstage at the Royal Albert Hall. Now he has an absoutely normal quality of life wich he wouldn’t have had before.

Noel Fitzpatrick is the vet who carried out the procedure on Coal. He says that the implant used is the first of its kind, and is compatible with the body tissue.

This is unique in that it’s the world’s only implant into which skin and bone grow. It is the holy grail of research. If you have an accident and your bone sticks out through your shin, skin will try to grow round it. People have been trying for this for years and years -because with this we get an umbrella of skin attached to the metal.

The coating and implant was developed by Stanmore Implants Worldwide, who are affiliated with University College London. My role was to implant it and to make it work in a dog. It is a step forward in the evolution of technology, starting with a legitimate biological problem in an animal. And then humans who then get implants that will work for them.