- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - A tear slid down Kitty Martin’s face as she recently watched her 11-month-old calf walk. Though a bit unsteady after spending most of his life sick, it was the result Martin wanted.

“That was amazing. That was like Christmas for me,” she said as she led the bovine around the Texas A&M; Large Animal Hospital off University Drive in College Station, slipping him treats along the way. “I’ve never loved an animal so much in my life.”

Hero went into the vet hospital two months ago without the use of his back legs. He now walks fine with two prosthetics, thanks to the veterinarians at A&M.;

The calf’s two back hooves and part of his tail were lost during a four-day freeze last April, said Martin, his caretaker and owner of the Selah Ranch All Animal Rescue in Greenville, Va. Martin rescues animals “that nobody else wants” and keeps them at the ranch, she said, adding that it’s on its way to becoming a nonprofit and soon will be moved to the Brazos Valley. She rescued Hero at the beginning of May, and managed to nurse him through an infection. The calf was not able to stand without risking further injury, so she contacted universities across the country to see if any experts believed he had a chance.

A&M;’s vet school agreed to take a look at him, so Martin placed the 500-pound calf in a trailer and made the 1,250-mile drive from Virginia to College Station in November. He arrived in critical condition and had to be placed in the ICU, but managed to undergo surgery by the end of that same month.

A&M; veterinarians removed roughly two inches of bone and fitted the calf into a temporary prosthesis that helped him learn to walk again while the stumps healed, said Dr. Ashlee Watts, an assistant professor in large animal surgery. The calf was not in pain and began walking right away, though he was weak for roughly two weeks because he hadn’t walked in so long.

“After the surgery he was pretty comfortable and did quite well - he didn’t have any major complications, and pretty much acted like a normal cow,” Watts said.

Seven weeks after his surgery, Hero was fitted into the prosthetic legs. Right now, his biggest risk is contracting sores that could lead to an infection, according to Watts. Martin has to change his prosthetics twice a day and carefully watch over the animal to ensure he’s not uncomfortable.

Hero is scheduled to leave the animal hospital this week, Watts told The Eagle newspaper (https://bit.ly/1glhjGR).

The calf made headlines after animal rights groups sent Martin emails saying she was wrong for keeping Hero alive after suffering through his injuries. Martin said the calf has even received death threats, so he’s moving to an undisclosed location for his safety.

“I brought him out here not knowing whether he was going to his death sentence. I was told that if they felt that it was against his quality of life, that he would be put down,” Martin said. “And I had no idea whether he was going to walk out of here or not, but I love him that much to take a chance.”

Transporting Hero from Virginia and undergoing the surgery has cost Martin roughly $25,000, she said. Fans of Hero have donated around $8,000 and Martin is accepting donations through her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SelahRanchRescue.

Martin, a former veterinary technician and a native Texan, said she hopes Hero can serve as a therapy animal for wounded warriors and special needs children who visit her ranch.

“I think everything that he’s been through and the spirit that he’s come through - I think he’d be an encouragement to people that are going through that kind of trauma in their life,” she said.

___

Information from: The Eagle, https://www.theeagle.com


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