Photo Credit: DaPuglet via Compfight cc
Last week we featured the travails of Derby the Dog, a Massachusetts pooch who was born with two deformed front legs yet found hope in breakthrough 3D prosthetic technology which allowed him to frolic and scamper in his hometown parks with virtually the same ease as all the other able-bodied dogs. We mentioned that it was only a matter of time before the technology would make another appearance and relieve the ailments of a fellow-suffering animal, reminding us once again of how biology is now more than ever dependent on the intervention of scientific knowledge. This week we have the equally edifying story of Brutus the Rottweiler from Denver, Colorado, who, in contrast to his namesake, was not the perpetrator but the victim of betrayal. However with the good will of perfect strangers who did their suburb name “Loveland” proud, Brutus found himself with wholly new body parts and an added pop in his step.
Unthinkably, at the age of only 4 months, Brutus, an otherwise healthy Rottweiler pup, was the victim of sickening animal cruelty. In a supreme act of negligence, his breeder-owner initially exposed Brutus to an insufferable cold that resulted in the contraction of frostbite. Unwilling to remedy the mistake, and prioritising saving cash over effective and urgent veterinary treatment, the owner hacked off the paws himself, leaving the animal with mere stumps, an effective canine quadriplegic. Brutus was then pawned in the parking lot of a shopping centre, and the owner hasn’t been seen since, to his great luck some would say.

Brutus’ brutish brush with fate took a turn for the better when a local rescue group took it upon itself to improve the welfare of the dog, managing to raise $12,500. This paid for surgery to remove troublesome bone fragments and a couple of remaining toes, the two sets of prosthetics designed by OrthoVets, and on-going physical therapy at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Brutus has now found a stable and secure home with his new foster carer Laura Aquilina, who has nurtured Brutus to a healthy 75 pounds, with one extra pound for each of his new appendages. The prosthetics protect and support his collapsed and callused legs, and are helping re-align the severed legs to an equal length. Brutus leaves the prosthetics off inside the home where he plays with the children and their cat, however the hard, gravelly curbs and sidewalks of his hometown require their much-needed assistance.

Brutus is currently under the supervision of the specialist Department of Clinical Sciences at CSU who are preparing Brutus for his latest round of physical therapy. This will include underwater treadmill therapy and “neuro re-education therapies” involving exercise balls, an advanced orthopaedic technique designed to help Brutus’ muscles adapt to the influence of the prosthetics.

The team at CSU responsible for the oversight of Brutus’ development believe he is only the second dog ever to have been fitted with four prosthetics. Rest assured, Denver’s best vets are on the case, excited as they are about the future implications of the work for other animals, and indeed humans themselves. Reports from the Department indicate that Brutus is doing exceptionally well mastering movement with the aid of his prosthetics. Seems like it’s only a matter of time before he’s capable of performing higher order functions such as hiking and playing with other dogs, a far cry from the misery of the parking lot where he was left unsure as to whether he’d ever be given a normal life.