Derrick Campana never expected that he’d be a BYUtv star, making artificial limbs for dogs and such.
“I had never heard of animal prosthetics,” he told the Television Critics Association.
Then again, he hadn’t heard of BYUtv. Many people haven’t.
But here he is: “Wizard of Paws” launches its second season at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday (April 28) – the same time that Joe Biden gives his first address to Congress – and reruns at midnight, on BYUtv.
“I didn’t know much about them, but … I started Googling them right away,” he said. He found that it’s unique – a college (Brigham Young University) station that went national, staking out a specific turf.
“BYUtv is committed to being the family-entertainment brand,” said Jetta Juriansz, one of the stars of “Studio C,” a sketch-comedy show.
And yes, that fits Campana, who seems friendly toward families and (especially) critters. They range, he said, “from the tiniest of animals, chihuahuas, to … six-ton bull elephants. It’s just a dream come true, to be able to travel the world and help these animals.”
Except he never dreamed of this, because he didn’t know it was possible.
Campana studied kinesiology biomechanics at Penn State, then studied human prosthetics at Northwestern Medical School. Then a veterinarian brought her black lab to his office.
“She said, ‘My dog needs a prosthesis,” Campana said. “I kind of looked at her weird, because I never saw a dog with a prosthesis. (But( I got such joy and fulfillment out of it;.”
That was 17 years ago. He’s had 30,000 animal patients so far, a few of them complicated … especially because he doesn’t sedate them. An elephant in Botswana was “six tons and you’re just underneath him, trying to cast this leg, which takes about 100 roles of fiberglass.”
He tends to be cautious, “especially with horses; they want to kick.”
At first, he said, it might take him a week to make one artificial limb; now he can do it in 2-3 hours. It might cost $750, which is a lot … unless it’s an alternative to a $3,000 surgery.
About four-fifths of his cases are long-distance. Campana will mail a casting kit and (when he gets that back) make the prosthesis, mailing it with instructions.
But some people come to his headquarters in Sterling, Ky. And occasionally, he’ll travel for special cases, including two Thai elephants whose legs were shattered by land mines.
This makes for a busy workday. “I have legs all over the place,” he said, and more – “little cranial caps for chihuahuas, cow legs, custom carts …”
Still, he’d prefer more personal contact. The show has him go to customers with his mobile limb lab and his dog Henry. “He’s not only a little, squishy, cuddly guy,” Campana said. “He’s a true helper, kind of a theraphy dog to get these animals really excited and really used to these prosthetics.”
Words like “squishy” and “cuddly” fit “Wizard of Paws.” It’s “another feel-good show,” Juriansz said, in a network that wants you to be feeling fine.
BYUtv is on cable, oln satellite and online (www.byutv.org). It occasionally reflects the fact that it’s at a Mormon university in Utah, especially with a surge of Christmastime specials. But more often, it simply offers a 1950s-style blend of reruns, movies, new comedies, an Australian drama and reality.
“I’m not Mormon, “ Campana said, “but … I’m just so happy BYUtv reacehd out to me.”