If you’ve been around special needs pets for a while you’ve almost certainly heard of Eddie’s Wheels. The company has designed and manufactured more than 20,000 custom wheelchairs for disabled pets worldwide. Like most of us who are passionate about disabled animals, Ed and Leslie Grinnell were first introduced to dog carts after their Doberman, Buddha, got sick. Neither of the Grinnell’s knew this would lead to a new career that would make them the leader in custom built dog wheelchairs.
Leslie Grinnell was nice enough to share the story of Eddie’s Wheels with me in a recent interview.
Here’s what we discussed.
How did Buddha’s condition lead to starting Eddie’s Wheels?
“In 1989 when Buddha was 10 she lost the use of her hind legs due to spondylosis and disc disease,” said Leslie.
We were offered the choice of a risky surgery that we couldn’t afford or euthanizing her. Because she wasn’t in pain we started to research the option of wheelchairs. Eddie, who is a mechanical engineer, wasn’t satisfied with the carts on the market so he decided to build a custom wheelchair for Buddha. The goal was to give the dog’s spine time to heal and hopefully she would walk again. Ed analyzed the way Buddha’s body moved and built the wheelchair to her specifications. After a couple of months Buddha was able to move her legs again.
Our veterinarian was so impressed that he started referring patients to us. Then through word-of-mouth we began to grow Eddie’s Wheels.
What is Eddie’s Wheels like today?
We still build custom pet wheelchairs for each customer, but we have more types of carts than we had when we started the company. We’ve built 188 front wheel carts and 58 quad carts, plus we supply specialized equipment to veterinary hospitals and rehab centers. Each piece of equipment is still designed for the animal that is going to use it and our staff takes time to get the details from every customer. Most clients spend at least an hour talking to us over the phone so we can get the full details about a pet’s condition.
For instance, a dog with a spinal injury might also have arthritis. We need to know that information so the biomechanics of the cart work for that particular dog. A pet’s balance and core strength also play a key role in how a wheelchair is designed.
Do you have a typical client?
Our typical customer is the 5lb. Dachshund that has an injury to the spine because of Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and the 10 year-old German shepherd that has Degenerative Myelopathy. Because of that we’ve built wheelchairs as light as 1lb. to hold a 5lb. Yorkie to carts for very big animals.
What is the most unusual client you’ve had?
We’ve had a few interesting customers. We’ve built wheelchairs for a 3-legged goat, an Alpaca that lives in an animal sanctuary, a pot belly pig in South Africa and a rabbit that lives in Alberta, Canada.
What advice do you have for the owners of disabled pets?
First, pets with disabilities are a good lesson in self-acceptance for us. They don’t feel sorry for themselves.
Second, if your dog is having trouble using his cart get on the phone immediately with the manufacturer. There is a reason he doesn’t like the wheelchair and the problem can be fixed with the proper adjustments.
Third, living with a dog with disabilities isn’t much more difficult that living with a healthy dog. As long as the dog isn’t in any pain and is engaged in life, I hope his owners won’t give up.
Click here to read more about Eddie’s Wheels and their programs to help paralyzed dogs.
(Photos: Eddie’s Wheels)
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