This story was updated August 2018.
I love being able to share resources for pet parents of paraplegic dogs and this group is of one my favorites. Gunnar’s Wheels Foundation started as a small nonprofit that loans dog wheelchairs to paralyzed canines in need. They awarded their first cart in August 2016. Today they are the leading organization that places wheelchairs with families that cannot afford to buy one for their handicapped dog. It is a truly amazing group.
How Gunnar’s Wheels got its start
Gunnar’s Wheels was created by Jason and Stephanie Parker as a way of “paying it forward” for the generosity people showed their dog. In 2014 their black Labrador retriever Gunnar, was hit by a truck. Gunnar was rushed into surgery at the University of Minnesota to repair his spine. The 110lb dog went through months of rehab with an underwater treadmill, laser therapy and acupuncture. He regained partial use of his back legs, but struggled to walk.
Gunnar needed a dog wheelchair to make him whole again. But the amount of veterinary bills the family had acquired to fix Gunnar’s spine made it impossible for the Parkers to afford one. A relative started a GoFundMe page to help them. The Parkers were surprised at the number of friends and family who stepped up to help Gunnar get his cart. Contributions even came in from strangers who heard Gunnar’s story and wanted to get the dog back on his feet. Soon the big Labrador was wheeling around on his own.
Paying it forward
Jason realized that lots of pet owners were in the same situation as he had been. So he started another GoFundMe page for other paralyzed dogs in need. It didn’t take long before a rescue group came knocking at his door for help.
Jason’s sister who is a former Veterinary Technician, shared Gunnar’s story with friends and acquaintances in animal rescue. Here is how Gunnar’s Wheels Foundation explains what happened next.
A rescue called out for help to get a rescue dog a chair and Jason found a used one and paid to ship it to TX. So Gunnar’s Wheels Foundation was born in August 2016. Since then, Jason, his wife Stephanie, and sister Jaimee have built up relationships with manufacturers to buy carts and parts at a discount. Jason speaks with EVERY pet owner to help them measure and get the right fit. Jaimee combs Craig’s list all over the country to find used carts, requests support and donations from public and private parties as well as corporations. Stephanie assists in managing logistics, cart returns and the avalanche of paperwork and applications that come with starting and running a non-profit.
Today Gunnar’s Wheels has shipped carts as far away as Portugal to get a paralyzed dog walking. They also gave a set of wheels to a retired therapy dog, an injured military dog and a rescue group that took in a dog with a broken back.
The group gets 5-10 requests for help every day.
Jason asks recipients to do two things in return for getting a dog wheelchair:
- Send a photo of their dog in the cart so he can share it with donors.
- Return the wheels when it is no longer needed.
I’ll ask one more thing for pet parents to do:
Be generous to Gunnar’s Wheels and the other great organizations who get paraplegic dogs moving again. Please consider a donation.
Here is how to apply for a dog wheelchair.
There is no formal application process for Gunnar’s Wheels. If you are in need of a dog wheelchair send Jason a message via Gunnar’s Wheels Facebook page. The process is as simple as that. Send Jason your name and contact information plus let him know your dog’s breed and approximate weight. You can also explain your financial situation and need for a wheelchair, if you would like to share the information. Jason is very prompt in getting back to potential recipients.
Again, contact Gunnar’s wheels by clicking here: Gunnar’s Wheels Facebook page.