Students Help Dog Walk with 3D Printing Technology

Shelby is a direct answer to prayer for owner Laurie Wittkugle, who while visiting family in Florida, fatefully met her. Shelby was rescued from an abusive home in Florida at four months old and made the two day trip to Ohio with Laurie in September 2003.

Shelby had always been an extremely active outdoor-loving companion, even though her back and legs would bother her if over exerted. Her condition gradually worsened over the years. In 2010, at six years of age, Shelby had limited mobility. An MRI revealed dehydrated spinal discs and compressed nerves in her lower back, creating a great deal of pain. Shelby now has rheumatoid arthritis in all her legs, with the front left being the most knotted, and the paw flattened and twisted. The rheumatoid arthritis has also settled in several portions of her spine, pushing on internal organs. Further compromising her health is an enlarged liver due to years of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Dr. Luke Lukasko and his fabulous team at Newton Falls Animal Hospital have done wonderful things for Shelby since 2011 with acupuncture and medication. Shelby had been barely walking in 2011 when first becoming a patient of Dr. Luke’s, and has had many years of walking and swimming since that time.

As Shelby’s condition worsens over time, adjustments at home must be made including ramps indoors and out, non-slip flooring, and elevated dishes. Meal times have also been adjusted to accommodate medication schedules. For outdoor activities, Shelby has a stroller and enjoys riding through the parks.

Shelby’s latest big endeavor has been that of being a research project at Youngstown State University. Laurie saw a video of a dog with deformed front legs utilizing 3-D printed prosthetic legs, and presented the idea to YSU’s Additive Manufacturing Director, Brett Conner by simply volunteering Shelby should they ever desire to undertake such an endeavor. Within two weeks, Shelby had a team of ten together.

“The number-crunching administrators at YSU are often unaware of all that their faculty and staff are doing with our talented students,” says Laurie Wittkugle. “Simple suggestions are sometimes all that is needed to spark great things within the students, with committed faculty to fuel those sparks. The six students who have worked with Shelby are amazing! They are talented, resourceful, professional, committed and compassionate. They have been a joy to work with on this project.”

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TEAM SHELBY consists of:

Students who graduated in May: Abdullah Alsairafi, Jason Doll, Craig Householder, Jennifer McAnallen

Students continuing in Fall 2016: Jared Clark, Karen Schilling

Faculty: Guha Manogharan, Brett Conner

Veterinarian: Luke Lukasko, Newton Falls Animal Hospital

Shelby’s Owner/Caregiver: Laurie Wittkugle (also YSU Staff Member)

You can view the TV interview from WKBN here.