RALEIGH, N.C. -- Zeus, a Siberian husky, had to rest through most of his news conference. With only three working legs, he had to limp to prevent his fourth -- a left-front stump -- from hitting the ground.
Hobbling wore him out.
His owner and veterinarians at the North Carolina State School of Veterinary Medicine hope a state-of-the-art procedure, through which a titanium prosthetic front paw is infused into his leg bone, will let him act more like his 5-year-old self.
The procedure has been performed on six other animals' hind legs since 2005, but never on a front paw. Which is why North Carolina State put Zeus in the spotlight before the surgery.
"We want his quality of life to improve," said Zeus' owner, Sandy Vandall, as TV cameras focused on her blue-eyed husky. "He's self-conscious about it. When he meets other dogs, he tucks his leg in."
Denis Marcellin-Little, a professor of veterinary orthopedic surgery, performed the osseointegrated wrist implant Thursday. "It went very well," he said afterward.
N.C. State claims to be the only university in the world that manufactures and implants custom-made animal prosthetics.
Zeus lost his paw as a puppy after a female dog mauled him on the farm where he was bred.
The dog tried to grab Zeus out of a cage. In doing so, she ripped off his front paw, leaving a sensitive stump that is excruciatingly painful if he knocks it. It often bleeds, Vandall said.
Vandall is a friend of the breeder, and after the incident, the breeder called Vandall, a dog groomer, to see whether she wanted to adopt the hurt puppy.
Vandall didn't want a dog. But the minute she saw him, he waved his hurt leg to her, and she was in love.
She rushed him to North Carolina State, where they operated on his broken hip -- also a result of the mauling -- but doctors had to wait to deal with his missing front paw until his bones matured.
Zeus can expect a 10- to 12-week recovery. During that time, he won't be allowed to run on his new limb to ensure the skin is securely in place around it.
Vandall, who owns her own mobile dog-grooming business, said she'll work nights and weekends to take care of Zeus during the day.
Her family already has a ramp in place for him and he'll have to be on a leash to prevent running.
On Wednesday, after posing for photos, Vandall and Zeus went out to the building's lobby before he was taken away for his pre-operation preparation.
Vandall bent down to tape a baby sock to the dog's stump and pulled on a thick, black paw protector that he has worn for five years.
"Last time, buddy," she said as Zeus anxiously twirled. "Last time."
Reach Leah Friedman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com