FARMINGTON — When Mike Meggison's dog, Monkey, had her hind legs amputated after being hit by a truck last year, Meggison didn't know if she would ever catch a Frisbee disc again.

But now, a year later, Monkey is walking on prosthetic legs.

Meggison bought Monkey, a pedigreed Australian cattle dog, seven years ago as a puppy when he lived near San Diego, Calif. Her registered name was Monnet, but he started calling her Monkey because of the way she sat on her tail.

When she was two months old, he started rolling her bowl along the ground to teach her to catch a Frisbee.

As she grew older, Meggison took the pup to play at San Diego State University. Students practiced throwing Frisbees, and Meggison often had them throw the discs for Monkey.

Prosthetist Bryan Lott and Mike Meggison sit with Monkey at Hanger Prosthetics on Nov. 20 in Farmington after one of Monkey’s appointments.
Prosthetist Bryan Lott and Mike Meggison sit with Monkey at Hanger Prosthetics on Nov. 20 in Farmington after one of Monkey's appointments. (Hannah Grover / The Daily Times)

"She was -- and always will be -- one hell of a Frisbee dog," Meggison said.

About two years ago, Meggison moved to Farmington, where he lives in a recreational vehicle east of the city. Last year, he left the RV to get water to fill the tanks. The pump is about 100 yards down a nearby hill, and another 25 years from the valve is a fork in the road.

As usual, Monkey accompanied Meggison to get water, and the duo raced each other to the valve.

But this time, Meggison reached the valve while Monkey continued onto the road.

When he turned to leave, he couldn't see her. He called for her.

"I just heard a big bang and an 'ourf,'" he said.

He rushed to the road and found the blue heeler lying on the ground. A truck had driven over the dog's hind legs. And, to make matter worse, it skidded over her, causing even more damage.

When Meggison reached Monkey's side, she was tearing at herself with her teeth to try to ease her pain.

Meggison said he didn't get a good look at the truck, which drove away.

He called a friend for help. In the meantime, he lay on Monkey and held her down to stop her from biting herself. Once the friend arrived, they rushed Monkey to Animal Haven Clinic in Farmington, where Dr. Susan Moreland treated her.

Veterinarians tried to save Monkey's feet, but that proved impossible. Eventually, they amputated most of her two hind legs below the hocks.

After that, Meggison struggled to pay thousands of dollars in vet bills, eventually calling his sister for help. He said putting Monkey down was never an option.

For months after the amputation, Monkey sat around, depressed. Australian cattle dogs are intelligent and thrive on completing tasks. For an energetic dog like Monkey, being inactive was particularly difficult.

Animal Haven gave Meggison a surgical sling to carry Monkey around, but it was no replacement for walking on her own.

"For eight months, I had to carry her in the sling," Meggison said.

Eventually, the muscles in her rear end began to deteriorate. Meggison thought about buying Monkey a cart to get around. And then Dr. Moreland suggested prosthetics.

This spring, Moreland called Bryan Lott at Hanger Prosthetics in Farmington and asked him to make the prosthetic limbs for Monkey.

The company, which is based in Austin, Texas, manufactures prosthetics mostly for humans. However, they can also serve animals. They have created a tail for a dolphin, which was the premise for the 2011 film "Dolphin Tale."

The company allowed Lott to create Monkey's legs for free. For months, Lott met with Meggison and Monkey during his lunch breaks.

The process was full of trial and error. Lott was accustomed to creating limbs for humans, so making them for a dog didn't come naturally.

"We would make them and make them again," Lott said.

At first, he tested various things and monitored Monkey's reaction to see if she winced in pain.

"We knew when we were getting close," Lott said.

He said the key was the prosthetics had to be soft, flexible, the right height and have suspension right above the hock.

"Once we decided to go above the hock with the strap, that's when it really clicked," Lott said.

The final product is black, to match Monkey's coat. Lott used mountain bike tire treads on the bottoms of the feet.

Meggison said the prosthetics have given Monkey back her independence. She is able to catch Frisbees again and swims at Farmington Lake.

"They're so precious to us," Meggison said.

The other day, he said, she saw a coyote and took off running after it.

Over the last two months that Monkey has had her new legs, Meggison has watched the muscles returning to her hindquarters.

"You get a ball or a Frisbee in your hand, she can't sit down," Meggison said.

He said as soon as he gets the prosthetics out she gets excited.

"I'm sure within six months she'll be running when I call her," Meggison said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.