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‘Wheels for Louie:’ Dog born without 2 front legs gets special help from UW engineering students

MADISON — A pampered pooch hasn’t let his disability stop him from living life to the fullest, but his owners wanted to make sure he didn’t miss out on anything. A group of engineering students at the University of Wisconsin stepped up to the challenge — creating “Wheels for Louie.”

Four-year-old Louie is a lot like other pups.

“Yes, you’re good boys,” said Pete Sammataro, Louie’s owner. “He gets along with everyone. He’s everyone’s best friend.”

Born without both front legs, Louie still managed to get around, but his owners, Pete and Pat Sammataro wanted to help him do more.

“If you ask Louie, he would tell you that he’s not disabled,” said Pete Sammataro. “He just doesn’t have front legs. He just hopped around like you just saw. The way he walks now isn’t very conducive to getting very far out of the neighborhood.”

They tried several different harnesses and a two-wheeled cart, but nothing worked.

“He’d tip back and forth and eventually he’d tip over and do a somersault,” said Pete Sammataro.

Then, they heard about a UW engineering class looking for a community project. They brought the students Louie’s cart to see what they could do.

“They were able to use about half of the materials from that cart and add on some extra balancing,” said Katie Kalscheur, UW engineering lecturer.

The students added smaller wheels for stability, and a few months later, Louie had a wheelchair.

“All along, it’s maybe been nicknamed the ‘Wheels for Louie’ project,” said Kalscheur.

Armed with a tub of hot dogs, the Sammataros helped Louie practice with his new wheelchair.

“We call this the nuclear option,” said Pete Sammataro. “I think he wants to go for a walk. He wants to go out and explore.”

Every day, he’s gotten a little closer to taking his first steps out into the neighborhood.

“Good job Louie,” said Pat Sammataro. “I’m so proud of you.”

Louie’s owners said eventually, they would love to take him on daily walks, and we’re betting Louie would love that, too.

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