- By Mariah Zajac
Gwendolyn Alpaca is the newest patient at Prosthetic Orthotic Solutions International (POSI) in Horsham, PA. She also is the clinic’s only patient from the animal kingdom.
“Gwen” is an alpaca from Abenaki Acres Farm, an alpaca farm in Stockton, N.J. Farm owners, Bill and Elizabeth Johnson, said alpacas are highly valued for their coats’ fiber for knitting and weaving. They are very similar in appearance to llamas.
About five months ago, Gwen got caught in a fence and severely broke her front right leg. Complications in Gwen’s healing process left the Johnsons with no choice but to amputate her leg.
“Normally when animals are injured severely enough for amputation, they are put down,” said POSI Facility Director and Certified Prosthetist Kevin Towers. “Gwen is the poster child for injured animals. She is living proof that animals can lead healthy lives with a prosthetic device.”
Gwen had her leg amputated July 4 by Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. She went without prosthesis for a month, but the Johnsons began seeing complications in her remaining front leg due to overuse. They took her to see Benjamin Harder, CP, LPNJ, at POSI for a prosthetic fitting.
Today Gwen wears a permanent device, complete with the Abenaki Acres Farm logo and her name displayed on the leg. According to Harder, Gwen could not be happier with her new leg.
“At the farm, they take her leg off at night and in the middle of the day,” Harder said. “She is a very cooperative and docile animal, but when it’s time for her leg to be taken off, she runs away and makes funny sounds.”
Since Gwen is the first animal Harder has worked with, he is impressed with her calm demeanor and response to treatment.
“It’s interesting to watch her adapt so easily to a prosthesis,” Harder said. “It’s hard to tell if she is comfortable, because I can’t just ask her how it feels, but Gwen is a fighter.”
The four-year-old alpaca is not only a recent amputee, but an expectant mother. Bred before her accident, Gwen successfully retained her second cria, or baby alpaca. According to Elizabeth, Gwen’s cria adds another piece to her “story of great love and spirit.”