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Getting a leg up on adoption

  • Toad the pit bull sits in front of a pine tree

    Getting a leg up on adoption

    Rescued pit bull finds forever home after a life-changing surgery made possible by special fund

    Toad, a 6-month-old pit bull mix, underwent surgery to repair a severe fracture in one of his legs. Photo courtesy of Courtney Stroth. 

When Toad, a 6-month-old American Staffordshire terrier-pit bull puppy, was found tied to a fence on the side of East River Road and I-694, his leg was dangling. 

It was May 2022, and Toad’s rescuer took him to the University of Minnesota (UMN) Lewis Small Animal Hospital to scan him for a chip. There wasn’t one, the black and white puppy was a stray.

It was clear he was injured and an examination revealed that he’d need surgery. The fracture had cut through a growth plate in his leg and the bones in his knee. Dr. Michael Conzemius, a former professor of surgery in the UMN College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) who oversaw Toad’s treatment, knew the puppy would need multiple divergent pins to stabilize the growth plate and his knee while the bones healed. The surgery would be costly. 

Cardiology veterinary technician and future adopter, Courtney Stroth, holds Toad at the Veterinary Medical Center. Photo courtesy of Courtney Stroth. 

A Rotta Love Plus, a shelter in Cologne, Minn., that specializes in rottweilers and pit bulls, was caring for Toad and had a long relationship working with the UMN veterinary hospital, in particular identifying rescue animals that could benefit from the VMC Shelter & Rescue Animal Fund.

The fund helps out with the cost of specialty veterinary care––often surgery––for animals under the care of qualified nonprofits. To qualify, the animals have an injury or disease that is curable and requires a relatively straightforward treatment. After that, the animals are expected to live a normal life. 

“Toad is a perfect example of why the fund exists. A young, healthy puppy had a very fixable problem. He just needed a little helping hand,” Conzemius says. 

With the combined help of donations from A Rotta Love Plus fundraiser and the VMC Shelter & Rescue Animal Fund, Toad’s surgery was able to take place shortly after he was rescued. With close supervision from Conzemius, the surgery also was a learning opportunity for a third-year surgery intern at the VMC. 

“Generally, these are also cases where interns and residents will benefit from learning under guided treatment with close faculty supervision and, in this case, participation in the case,” Conzemius says. 

Toad is ready for adventure with a fully healed leg. 
Photo courtesy of Courtney Stroth. 

The divergent pins in Toad’s leg held the bones in place while the fractures healed, while also allowing the growth plate to continue to grow. It went down without a hitch and the playful, bouncy puppy was on the road to recovery within a couple of hours. 

“If we ever have dogs that need emergency care within our program, we try the U of M first because they offer help paying for bigger surgeries in rescues, but also because the care is amazing,” says Erica Miller, who is on the board of the directors for A Rotta Love Plus

Miller had planned to foster Toad while he was recovering from surgery, a typical arrangement at the shelter. But unexpectedly, he found a home with a UMN cardiology veterinary technician named Courtney Stroth, CVT.

Stroth’s family had just lost their beloved pitbull, Hank, to brain cancer. 

“As soon as I saw Toad's sweet face in the hospital, I was on the phone with A Rotta Love Plus rescue, looking to take him home to rehab him and see if he was a good fit for our family,” Stroth says.

He was a perfect match. Now fully recovered, Toad’s best friend is Stroth’s 5-year-old son, who he plays with every night. 

“He is an absolute nut and has incredible amounts of energy and spunk. He is a handful but fits in perfectly with our goofy family,” Stroth says.

Toad joins his new family for a boat ride. Photo courtesy of Courtney Stroth. 

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