BATON ROUGE, La. - When Pedro the turtle was adopted by his owners, he was already missing one of his back legs. But after a recent escape from his outdoor enclosure, he came back home missing the other back leg.
That's why Sandra Traylor, Pedro's owner, decided to bring him to Louisiana State University.
Now, thanks to the zoological medicine service at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Pedro is back on the move.
"The wound had already healed quite well and he managed to get back on his own with his front legs somehow," explained Kelly Rockwell, a zoological medicine intern, in a statement. "As a box turtle, he can still 'box up' and protect himself that way, but due to his weakened mobility, the owners decided to make him a permanent indoor turtle."
Since Pedro would be staying inside, it was decided that a prosthetic may help to make him more mobile. Using a Lego car kit, Rockwell and LSU veterinary student Sarah Mercer came up with the best way to give Pedro his new wheels.
"We had to make the axles long enough to fit his body. We also made it so they could come off to clean Pedro," said Rockwell. "We used epoxy to attach Pedro. The same epoxy that's used on horseshoes."
As a fourth-year veterinarian student, Mercer said she will never forget the experience of using Legos to help an animal in need.
"Vet school can be hard at times," said Mercer. "But sitting on the floor with my classmates and mentors all laughing in delight as we watched Pedro roll around for the first time, that was a moment of pure joy."
Rockwell shared a similar sentiment when she described how they cut syringe cases to fit the axles together. "I love zoo med. It gives me an opportunity to be very creative with my job. We get a chance to be really creative as doctors to help these animals live a great quality of life."
Thanks to the veterinarians and their ingenuity, Pedro is now happily rolling his way through life.
"He's taken to the wheels with absolutely no problem. He adjusted right away to them. He backs up, he turns, goes back and forth," said Traylor. "He, overall, is a pretty happy camper after all he went through. It's like a science class but better because you're living it."