Ashley Liberto and her faithful companion Bentley, a golden retriever, have been the best of friends for eight years now. They do everything together, and Bentley’s infectious energy and lovable demeanor have won the hearts of everyone around them. But when Bentley started limping, Ashley became worried. After taking him to the vet, they discovered that he had a soft tissue sarcoma, which was causing his elbow to swell. Despite this setback, Ashley remains committed to doing everything she can to help her beloved pet recover.
After undergoing an MRI and biopsy, it was confirmed that Bentley, the golden retriever, had cancer in his right elbow. The only solution was to amputate the affected limb. The news was devastating for Bentley’s owner, a middle school math teacher who considers Bentley as her child. She expressed that it was emotionally exhausting and cried every night. However, the surgery was successful, and the veterinarian who performed it was confident that all the cancer was removed.
According to the veterinarians who examined the golden retriever, it was estimated that Bentley would need approximately two weeks to recuperate. However, when Liberto was reunited with her furry friend, she was amazed to see how he was able to adapt and move around despite his injury. In fact, on the second day of being home, Bentley eagerly led Liberto to their tennis court to retrieve balls for them to play with. Liberto attributes Bentley’s remarkable recovery to his strong determination and will to live.
Once Bentley was up and about once more, Liberto made the decision to attend support groups for “tripod canines” and began researching prosthetics. Upon discovering how expensive custom canine prosthetics were, the Charlotte-based Providence Day School teacher reached out to a few of her ex-students for assistance in developing a more budget-friendly alternative.
At Providence Day School, students can take a course focused on computer-aided design and 3-D printing. According to their teacher, Todd Johnson, the class is designed for beginners and teaches students how to create basic shapes, such as keychains, using this technology. However, when one student, Liberto, suggested the idea of making a prosthetic leg for her golden retriever, the class was enthusiastic to take on the challenge and experiment with something more advanced.
Johnson saw the value in giving her students a chance to apply their classroom learning to real-life situations and viewed it as an excellent opportunity for them. She believed that once they grasped the concept, they would come up with practical design solutions. To achieve this, Johnson divided the class into small groups, and Brandon Hollis and his team emerged as the winners with their impressive design. Hollis, who had previously taken math classes with Liberto, was determined to assist both his former teacher and her beloved dog Bentley. The sight of Bentley in class was a motivating factor for Hollis and his team in developing the harness and prosthetic leg for the pet. The group spent weeks working on the project, with Hollis expressing his satisfaction with the final product, albeit with minor adjustments required to perfect it.
The students have a goal to create a custom prosthetic that is both comfortable and functional for Bentley within the next few weeks. In spite of the course being finished, the young designers have decided to continue working on the project during their free time. According to Reed Nobili, one of the students participating in the creation of the prosthetic, it’s exciting to know that they are creating something that would make a significant impact on someone’s life, especially Bentley’s who is such a lovely dog. Liberto, Bentley’s owner, is thrilled with the outcome of the project. She was moved to tears when she saw what the students had created. She expressed how proud she was of the students and how the experience demonstrated the applicability of what they learned in a real-life situation.