Buster, a disabled sheep from Stockport, England, is enjoying his days grazing in a pasture with his buddies at Clough Farm Animal Sanctuary. Despite veterinarian recommendations to put Buster to sleep because of a severely deformed leg, volunteers and animal lovers pulled together to give Buster a new lease on life.
Buster was born with a deformity of his front leg that left him barely able to walk. At birth, his forelegs were splayed outward and his owner Jayne Murray, who runs the sanctuary with Ronnie Price, began looking for a veterinarian to help him.
“I called all the local farm vets to get him examined, and all but one told us it wasn’t worth their time as he should have been put down at birth. They said he had no hope of living for long,” said Murray. “We eventually found a vet in Whalley Bridge who agreed to see him so we put him in a pet carrier and took him there. He moaned all the way and it wasn’t until I picked him up and carried him in my arms that he shut up.”
The veterinarians at Leahurst Animal Hospital conducted X-rays and scans, which showed that the lamb’s muscles and tendons were welded to the bone at a 90 degree angle. In other animals, amputation may have been a consideration, but sheep are unique in the fact that they kneel with their front legs to eat. This type of disability would mean that Buster could not eat, and would need to be put to sleep.
“We were devastated. Apart from his leg, Buster was such a happy chap. He would play with Poppy and run around the paddock without a care in the world,” explained Murray. “The physio hadn’t worked and the vet explained that the pressure caused by walking on three legs would eventually damage him internally. All we needed was something to support his leg.”
A volunteer at the sanctuary remembered hearing of a dog with a specially adapted wheelchair, and suggested they try to find something that would help Buster get around the pasture on three legs. After some research, the team found a frame and harness that could be adapted for a sheep and raised the £455 ($728) needed to pay for the wheelchair.
“He looked very confused when we first strapped him in but he took a step forward and as he felt the frame move he soon got the idea. He quickly learnt how to move at great speed across the yard and steer using his other leg. Even learning how to reverse when he got stuck was wonderful to watch,” Murray explained.
“Now, he loves nothing more than scooting about in his wheelchair. The wheels are too big for his pen so I take him out for four hours a day so he can run around to his heart’s content. He is so comfortable in his chair that he stands in it and waits for us to hook him up to the harness so he can go out. It’s so wonderful to watch him clearly enjoying his new mobility.”