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Paying It Forward for a Healthier Future

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The Toots-Finley team meet at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

The boy was in a bow tie; the girl in her best pearls. Their parents approved of the date, and the two immediately clicked when together. Was this prom night for some young couple? Nope, just some dogs hanging out at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

Toots and Finley have more in common than just both being bulldogs. Toots (an English bulldog) and Finley (an American bulldog) share a bond two dogs rarely get to have. It’s no wonder Toots, who’s normally less receptive to other dogs, accepted Finley instantly. It’s as if she already knew who she was meeting.

“It was really sweet how Toots took to Finley,” said Leslie Durant, Toots’ owner. “She really doesn’t like other dogs,” she added jokingly. 

Toots has been a patient of the hospital for many years, having visited for several health issues over the years including eye surgery, a hernia, and removal of a magnet and a belt she had eaten. Luckily for her, all of these issues were no problem for the collaborative nature of care at UC Davis. Toots is still as feisty as ever at 11 years old.

Durant was so grateful for all the care Toots received at UC Davis, that she wanted to thank them with more than a small token of her affection.

“We wanted to make a more important impact than just buying the doctors dinner,” said Durant.

So Durant met with the School of Veterinary Medicine’s development office to discuss what that more significant impact could be. She decided to establish the Toots Fund to help other animals in need. Her generous gift has now helped other dogs, including Finley, receive the treatment they need.

The Toots Fund has also paved the way to changing how other dogs like Finley may be treated in the future by funding an important study in which Finley was involved.

The background of Toots’ and Finley’s fateful meeting started about four years ago when then second-year veterinary student Brendan Boostrom, who wanted to become an oncologist, was volunteering with the hospital’s Oncology Service during his summer vacation. He noticed a dog with a strange looking eye and brought it to the Ophthalmology Service to be examined. Boostrom’s instincts were correct, as the dog was diagnosed with a very rare eye tumor.

Boostrom became more interested in ophthalmology and always kept a keen eye on the patients’ eyes. By chance, he was on duty two years later during his fourth-year clinical rotations when Finley came in. Boostrom noticed that Finley also had an eye tumor but very different from the one he noticed in the dog two years earlier.

“Brendan was one of those students who always went above and beyond,” said Dr. David Maggs of the Ophthalmology Service.

It was then that the Toots Fund made its impact, as it was able to pay for all of the necessary testing to determine how to best help Finley. The tumor was diagnosed as a type of lymphoma that usually will manifest by spreading to other parts of the body. Luckily for Finley, and to the amazement of his veterinarians, the tumor had not metastasized and was able to be completely removed with only surgery and did not require follow-up radiation or chemotherapy treatments.

This prompted UC Davis veterinarians and researchers to conduct a study on this unique type of solitary tumor. When funding for the study was needed, Durant’s Toots Fund was there again to help. The study ultimately determined that solitary ocular lymphoma, like Finley’s, is extremely rare.

“What the Toots Fund helped with in our study was to make sure that Finley didn’t have to be treated elsewhere (in his body for the lymphoma),” said Dr. Tomo Wiggans, lead researcher on the study. “Just finding it in the eye is a really rare occurrence. Through the benefit of having a wonderful database here at UC Davis, we were able to go back through the records and came up with only nine cases total (over 28 years) of animals in which we had solitary lymphoma just in the eye and nowhere else. It has changed our philosophy on how we will treat dogs in the future that come to us with lymphomas in the eye.”

Recently, Finley was finally able to meet Toots and thank her for the helping hand. Meanwhile, their owners were grateful to each other for the opportunity to give to, and benefit from, such a worthwhile donation. To learn more about how you can make a difference in veterinary medicine, please visit