If a critter needs a new leg or needs other help to get around, the man they most want to meet is Derrick Campana, a k a The Wizard of Paws.
Founder of the companies Animal Ortho Care and Bionic Pets, Campana moved from creating prosthetics and movement aids for people to making them for animals of all sizes, from lapdogs to elephants. He's also the star of The Wizard of Paws, currently airing its second season on BYUtv and social-media network The Dodo, and its first season on Nat Geo Wild.
Said Campana at a recent TV Critics Association press tour:
We ship casting kits all over the world. We get these molds, and I hand-sculpt them and turn them into prosthetic and orthotic devices for all different species of animals. We're talking little cranial helmets for Chihuahuas, cow legs, custom carts. You name it, I do it.
We're talking technology, thermoplastics, 3D printing for flexibility, custom to the animals, even some carbon-fiber technology. When talking custom, I'm talking from the tiniest of animals, Chihuahua legs, to the largest of animals, five, six-ton bull elephants.
I don't only make prosthetics for The Wizard of Paws show. I'm making about 75 to 100 almost every single week here in my shop in Sterling, Virginia.
It all began with one dog, as Campana recalls:
I went to school for human prosthetics. I went to Penn State for kinesiology biomechanics, and then I went to Northwestern Medical School for human prosthetics. I started doing this field to help these people. One day, a veterinarian actually brought her black Lab named Charles into my office. And she said, "My dog needs a prosthesis."
And I kind of looked at her weird, because I never saw a dog with a prosthesis. I had never heard of animal prosthetics. I fit that dog, and I got such joy and fulfillment out of it, I started a company right away. That was about 17 years ago, and I've helped almost 30,000 patients to this point regain their mobility.
Even after all the animal patients he's helped, it still gets Campana where he lives. He says:
It is hard not to cry seeing an animal walk for the first time. ... The beauty of the show is I get to meet the families, I get to meet the animals, and I get to see the end result, which is not what I do commonly.
So, I still break down. You’re going to see me cry in the show. There are times where I think that this animal is not going to take to the device at all, and they completely prove me wrong. They’re up running, and -- yeah, I’m crying, and sometimes the ugly tears come through, but it never gets old.
You get to help these animals and build from scratch, with my hands, these devices.
The Wizard of Paws currently airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, on BYUtv, carried on many cable and satellite systems. Original season 2 episodes continue to run until June 30, but all episodes are available to watch via the BYUtv website and app, and at the Nat Geo Wild site.
Here's a peek at Season 2 of The Wizard of Paws:
Image: BYUtv and Mark Owens; Video: BYUtv
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.