Brutus the Rottweiler learns to adapt to new prosthetic legs
LOVELAND — Brutus survived mind-numbing cruelty to become a tail-wagging pioneer in meshing flesh and bone with new-age prosthetics.
Despite having his four paws amputated when he was 4 months old by a breeder in Cañon City, the 2-year-old Rottweiler plows ahead with goofy determination to live life like any other dog.
“This is really cutting-edge work that will have far-ranging implications in the future for both animals and people,” said Felix Duerr, an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “And Brutus is doing a really good job.”
Duerr is part of a team overseeing Brutus as he adapts to living with four prosthetic limbs, and the school believes Brutus is only the second dog ever known to use prosthetics on all four legs.
It’s not an easy transition. Brutus uses a clumsy high-stepping gait to maneuver over concrete curbs and sidewalks. Inside the house, the going is a little smoother for the 75-pound pooch, but he still steps gingerly around carpets and pillows.
“He’s learning how to thrive with his new feet,” Duerr said. “But it’s going to take a while.”
As a puppy, Brutus was left outside, and his paws suffered frostbite, prompting a backyard surgery by the breeder, who then pawned off the dog in a shopping center parking lot.
No one has heard from the breeder since. Brutus, meanwhile, fell into the hands of a rescue group that raised $12,500 for the dog’s surgery, two sets of prosthetics from Denver-based OrthoPets and physical therapy at Colorado State.
Brutus came under the foster care of Laura Aquilina and her husband, Rick Jaruzel, in June. Other members of their Loveland family include cat Durchilita and a patient 10-year-old Great Dane named Charlie.
Brutus enjoys the pleasures of any dog, crowding out Aquilina and Charlie for a spot on a living room couch and bouncing up to a stranger for a pat.
“I know Brutus is a purebred, but I don’t think he’s well-bred,” said Aquilina, who has applied to adopt Brutus.
“He goofs around like any 2-year-old dog,” said Aquilina. “He sleeps on his back and snores with his little nubs-for-feet sticking straight in the air.”
“But with all that he’s been through, I guess he should get the good life,” she adds.
Brutus lived with his first foster family for about a year but he couldn’t walk on the hardwood floors and stairs.
He has an easier time in Aquilina’s home, and he doesn’t wear his prosthetics inside the house. But outside, gravel and rocks cause him pain without his new legs.
Shortly after Aquilina took in Brutus, he had surgery on three of his four paws to remove bone fragments and the two remaining toes to fit the prosthetics. He was fitted with the rear prosthetics in September, and the front legs came in November.
Each limb weighs about a pound.
OrthoPets veterinarians also learned that both of Brutus’ wrist joints had collapsed. “It’s similar to a human rolling his ankle completely to the side, left grossly unstable,” said Martin Kaufmann, founder of OrthoPets.
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