ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — Stitches put his best hoof forward for the media. Make that his best prosthetic hoof.
Stitches, a 15-year-old Sicilian miniature donkey owned by Tracy and Steven Amonette of Botetourt County, lost part of his right rear leg about five years ago. The family could have euthanized the poor animal, but instead they decided to outfit Stitches with his own custom-made prosthetic leg.
"Look at him," Tracy Amonette said, as Stitches grazed on grass before a gaggle of reporters, photographers and television cameras Wednesday. "How could I put him down?"
The event was organized by Virginia Prosthetics in Roanoke, which designed and built the prosthetic that fits on the stub just below the donkey's knee.
Stitches was brought in a trailer to Creative Therapy Care near Hollins University in Roanoke County. The nonprofit organization, directed by Mona Sams, uses animals to treat adults and children with special needs. The hope is that Stitches might be incorporated into the program.
One of Sams' young clients, a boy named Elijiah, clearly enjoyed feeding Stitches handfuls of grass and leading him around by the reins.
Tracy Amonette got Stitches in 1997 when she lived in Colorado. She said that in his younger days, Stitches was "a brat."
"He's spoiled rotten," she said. The farm used to have an employee who fed Stitches cookies, she said.
"He used to follow her around and bray for cookies. When he heard a car, he would get sassy because he expected someone to give him a cookie."
The donkey has mellowed with age, she said. His new hoof, however, has not slowed him down.
"Animals do what they do," Amonette said. "They don't have the mental barricades that we have. If he feels like he wants to run, he's going to try."