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A Modesto prosthetic clinic is engaged in a trial and error process to give "magic legs" to Lieutenant Dan, the two-legged canine which has won the hearts of many in Ceres.

Named for the legless character in the movie, "Forrest Gump," Lt. Dan became somewhat of a celebrity canine in Ceres after the Courier published a story on him being rescued by employees of Ceres Veterinary Clinic.

Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics of Modesto learned about Lt. Dan and offered - without charge - to craft a device that will enable him to get around without crawling on the ground. The puppy, born without front legs, was cast recently at the Coffee Road business where the staff devised a wheeled cart-like device. The device was tried out Thursday afternoon but needs additional modifications. Lt. Dan toppled a couple of times because the wheels - which came from a model airplane - proved too small in diameter and the wheel base too narrow but he took things in stride.

"Okay, back to the hobby shop," said Spencer Greene of Hanger Prosthetics.

Life should vastly improve for Lt. Dan once the final working design is in use, said Wendy "Winni" Johnson, the Ceres Veterinary Clinic employee who came across the dog in "near death" conditions after being improperly cared for.

Greene said his company decided to make Lt. Dan a pet project.

"It's a fun thing to do as a way to give back," said Greene. "They plan to use him at Madera Children's Hospital as a therapy dog so what a great use and great way to be involved."

Green and prosthetic specialist Curtis Fitzgerald admitted that there aren't many examples to copy when creating a doggy prosthetic. They checked for images on the internet but found few.

"Our staff passed around different ideas," said Fitzgerald. "It's not your run of the mill prosthetic."

The tower like design that they developed needed modification as the dog could not easily push forward and tipped easily from side to side. They were happy to see that the device made Lt. Dan's torso at the proper height.

According to Johnson, Lt. Dan - probably a chihuahua and dacschund mix - doesn't consider himself handicapped. The disability doesn't hamper the desire to frolick with the other dogs and play fight, she noted. But sliding on the floor is causing a calloused spot on his chest.

"He's moving a lot and he has a rash on his belly," said Johnson. "He doesn't know any different. He was born this way so he doesn't know that he is supposed to have four legs. He tried to keep up with my chihuahuas."

The rescued dog is looked after by Johnson in the evening at home and during the day by the entire staff at Ceres Veterinary Clinic. Kelly Wilson and Dr. Matthew Bettencourt also helped nurse Lt. Dan to health.

Dr. Bettencourt tried his hand at crafting a three-wheeled cart but he quickly outgrew it and wouldn't stop chewing on the front wheel.

With his calm personality, Johnston believes Lt. Dan would make a great therapy dog at Madera Children's Hospital or at a local school that has a handicapped program.

Eventually Johnson is looking at the prospects of turning Lt. Dan over to a caring owner. It would only work with an exceptional person, she said.

"He's 24/7 care. He's active and needs potty breaks and there's taking him outside."

"I've rescued a lot of dogs. It's always hard giving them up. When you find the right person you can feel it click that this is the right one."