This story is part of a series called The Lessons on Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog.
My dog Sophie was a paralyzed, but she still loved being outdoors. She was used to going on daily walks before her illness and she still craved the fresh air and smells of our neighborhood. The desire to keep her mobile led to a whole series of paralyzed dog wagons, wheelchairs and carts my husband and I bought for her to try. Some of these were good ideas and others turned out to be pretty terrible. I hope you’ll use our experience as a guide of what not to do.
We first turned to a Radio Flyer wagon, similar to the one the two Bulldogs in the picture above are enjoying. We liked it because of the low price, it was easy to store in the garage and we could pull Sophie on a walk alongside our other dogs, Shadow and Cody.
Unlike the Bulldogs in the picture who seem to love their Radio Flyer wagon, our Sophie wasn’t as thrilled with her new ride. The day we proudly placed her inside the wagon was the day we learned that even a paralyzed dog could jump if she wanted to. Sometime during the walk, as the wagon was being pulled along the sidewalk, Sophie decided she wasn’t appreciating the ride and she flung her entire body out of the wagon. She didn’t accidently fall out, as you might guess could happen. No we actually saw her throw herself out of the vehicle.
My husband, Shadow, Cody and I came to a complete standstill as we watched in horror as Sophie’s body flew into the air and crashed onto the hard concrete sidewalk. We ran to her side to see how badly she had been hurt, but Sophie simply pushed the top half of her body to an upright position with her elbows and shook off trauma with a few flicks of her head. Ken and I decided to find another source of transportation for our dog.
The next purchase we made for Sophie was a dog wheelchair. I realize that lots of handicapped pets and their owners love dog wheelchairs, but Sophie was not an instant fan.
We measured to get the right size of wheelchair for and waited excitedly for it to arrive at our house. My husband and I thought this would be the perfect answer to our walking dilemma. When the cart was delivered we realized it had a lot more parts than we expected. It took two of us to hoist Sophie into the wheelchair and secure her body into place. Because our dog’s paralysis had moved into the mid section of her body we also used a special harness to keep her stomach from sinking to the ground.
Even with the hard work to strap Sophie into the wheelchair we were hopeful it would help her feel like a normal dog. We walked Sophie in the cart from our hilly driveway to the flat sidewalk below. Then we let go. Her first reaction was one of panic and her body trembled. My husband and I reassured her and gently let go of the chair. Sophie didn’t move, even when we called to her. After a few minutes we decided that she had enough of a first lesson so we removed the wheelchair and opted to try the next day. We felt sure that Sophie would warm up to the device.
I’ll jump ahead for you about our progress with the wheelchair. Sophie finally learned how to use it and she went on several short walks with it, but she never loved it the way that other dogs you see on videos do. Unfortunately most of the time she used the wheelchair, she ended tipping it over on its side and got so upset that we would have to carry her home. So ultimately we looked for our next alternative.
Somewhere in my travels around town I began to notice doggie strollers. Most seemed to be used for small dogs, but I started to search the Internet for strollers that could accommodate big dogs too. One day while attending an annual event for dogs in our community called Petapalooza I saw a large disabled dog being pushed in fully enclosed cart. The woman pushing the cart explained that it was originally intended to be attached to the back of a bicycle so pet owners could take their dogs for a ride. She had adapted it for her dog. The woman suggested I contact a company called DoggyRide to see if a bicycle cart could be adapted for Sophie.
It turned out that DoggyRide had also realized that their carts could be used for handicapped and elderly pets and they made it easy to order one that had a front wheel and handles so it could function like an oversized stroller. We immediately purchased a cart and it was a godsend for Sophie. She could sit inside comfortably while we pushed her around the neighborhood. She felt safe inside the enclosed cart and never shook with fear. She absolutely loved her giant red stroller and we used it nearly every day until the time that Sophie could no longer sit up on her own. She would happily hang her head out the front of the cart to see the sights and enjoy the smells of the entire neighborhood. It was a small victory in our attempt to make our paralyzed pup feel more like a normal dog.