UT Helps Get Steer Back on His Feet

Dudley lost a foot in a farm accident but gained an appendage courtesy of the University of Tennessee and others.

Dudley draws attention from his team of supporters. From left are Jay Weiner and Ellie Laks of The Gentle Barn, Dr. David Anderson and prosthetic maker Ronnie Graves.

Dudley’s done all right since a rescue group, a prosthesis manufacturer and University of Tennessee veterinarians teamed up to provide the young steer with a new foot.

The 800-pound Hereford was moved from a Nashville, Tenn., farm to the university in Knoxville after losing his left rear hoof in a tangle with baling twine. More of his lower limb was amputated at the UT veterinary hospital, a cast was applied and about a month later, in February, a prosthetic limb was installed.

By late March, Dudley was still learning to walk normally again.

“We are pleased to announce that Dudley is now safe and recovering,” said David Anderson, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, the university’s director of large animal clinical services, who performed the amputation. “The next stage of recovery is crucial as Dudley adjusts to walking and improves his balance and strengthens his muscles with his prosthetic foot.”

Stepping in to rescue Dudley was The Gentle Barn, a nonprofit group based in Santa Clarita, Calif. The organization took possession of Dudley after learning that his owner couldn’t afford his care, and co-founder Ellie Laks arranged for his move to the University of Tennessee.

Dudley was an outstanding patient after hobbling around for months with a missing foot, Laks said.

“This part of Dudley’s recovery is so hard because he is in the process of adjusting to his prosthesis,” she said. “We must be patient through the process and offer encouragement to Dudley while he bravely continues his rehabilitation, strengthens his muscles and regains his balance.”

The designer of the prosthesis, Ronnie Graves, owns VIP Veterinary Inclusive Prosthetics and Orthopedics in Bushnell, Fla. His large animal work has included a prosthetic leg for a sheep and a donkey.

“Ronnie Graves lost his leg in an accident … 40 years ago,” Laks said. “Since then, he has devoted his life to building prosthetics for animals like Dudley.”

Upon discharge, Dudley may become a mascot. Laks hopes to open a Gentle Barn location in Tennessee and keep Dudley as its first resident.

Dudley’s story is a teaching moment, said group co-founder Jay Weiner.

“The process of rehabilitation Dudley is enduring will not only provide insight into the programs developed for human amputees, but help pave the way for more animals to be given the chance to survive and thrive through these kinds of advancements in bionic technology,” Weiner said.

A group of human amputees was scheduled to visit with Dudley.

“We want to show that through the power of mutual healing that Dudley will benefit from them as much as they will benefit from Dudley,” Weiner said.

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