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Cheery pit bull has lots of love

Bruno, a pit bull terrier, is now in the care of Sheyenne River Kennels in West Fargo. He was found Sunday near Mankato, Minn., after being hit by a car. A local veterinarian treated that injury, but Bruno's front left leg has atrophied from an earlier injury and will have to be amputated. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

He scoots across the floor on his belly, pawing earnestly at the smooth tile with his right front leg while his crippled left legs drag along.

Bruno's brown tail wags the entire way, exposing his constant craving for attention.

He reaches his destination and licks the hand of a stranger, just happy to be petted for a few seconds.

Such a friendly demeanor just may have saved this pit bull's life.

About three weeks ago, Bruno was picked up by animal control in Mankato, Minn. He'd been hit by a car, and no owner was coming to claim him.

The local Humane Society carried Bruno next door to Minnesota Valley Pet Hospital. An X-ray revealed his left hip had popped out.

"We found lots of glass in him," said Nicole Bardon, a veterinary technician.

But if Bruno was in pain, he didn't show it. Even as a veterinarian tried to pop his hip back into place, Bruno's tail kept wagging, Bardon said.

Nevertheless, he was in tough shape, she said. The city decided Jan. 30 to euthanize the dog after the mandatory holding period.

Meanwhile, Bardon was growing attached to the cheery canine. She tested his demeanor with other dogs and cats, looking for signs of aggression. She pulled his food bowl away from him to see if he would snap at her. He didn't.

"I was kind of secretly hoping that something would be wrong with him so we wouldn't have to try so hard to find someplace for him," she said. "But, I mean, he's a great dog."

Bardon called 36 shelters and rescue organizations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota, with no luck. No one wanted a pit bull in need of hip surgery.

Then Bardon contacted Kish Hilmert, a student in the vet tech program at North Dakota State University. Bardon graduated from the program last year, and she knew Hilmert ran a nonprofit, volunteer animal rescue organization called 4 Luv of Dog.

Hilmert's group went into rescue mode, raising $450 online in 24 hours on the same day a vet inserted a pin to hold Bruno's hip in place. Hilmert was inspired by the dog's courage and amazed that he still had a chance at survival.

"Usually, a dog like this would be euthanized, period," she said.

A stitched-up Bruno now spends his days at Sheyenne River Kennels in West Fargo and his nights with its manager, Jamie Floan. She said Bruno is the first foster dog to sleep in her bed on its first night in the house.

"He wouldn't have it any other way," she said.

Bruno also gets along with his foster family, which consists of Floan's dog, four cats and a ferret.

"He'll actually kind of whine if the cat walks by him and doesn't stop," she said.

The road to recovery will be a long one for Bruno. His hip hasn't fully healed, and his lame left front leg - paralyzed from an unknown past injury - will probably need to be amputated, Floan said.

Still, there is progress.

"He's already gotten up and taken three steps twice now, but then he falls over," she said.

Hilmert hopes to find a permanent home for Bruno - and about 22 other dogs rescued by 4 Luv of Dog - when PetSmart in Fargo hosts its "2nd Chance for Love Adoption Days" from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Bruno will be there, scooting across the floor.