This story is part of a series called The Lessons . This post was updated October 2018.
This story is a personal account of my dog and her first encounter with a dog wheelchair. It’s not meant to deter pet owners from getting a wheelchair for their paralyzed dog. The majority of handicapped dogs love their carts. The goal of the story is to offer alternatives if your dog doesn’t take to a wheelchair or if they are too ill to maneuver a cart. For more information about dog wheelchair brands, please click on our annual Dog Wheelchair Review in the middle of this story .
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.
First we bought a wagon
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 in 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 didn’t appreciate the ride and she threw herself out of the wagon. She didn’t accidently fall out. No we actually saw her fling herself out of the vehicle.
My husband, Shadow, Cody and I came to a complete stop as we watched in horror as Sophie’s body flew into the air and crashed onto the sidewalk. We ran to see how badly she was 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. She had made her point. Ken and I went online to find another source of transportation for our dog.
Our next purchase was a wheelchair
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.
Finally we found the perfect cart
Somewhere in my travels around town I began to notice dog strollers. Most seemed to be for small dogs, but I searched the Internet for strollers that could accommodate big dogs too. One day while attending an event for dogs in our community called Petapalooza, I saw a large disabled dog being pushed in fully enclosed cart. His pet mom explained that it was intended to be attached to a bicycle so pet owners could take their dog for a ride. She had adapted the trailer by adding a front wheel and a handlebar. The woman suggested I contact the company called DoggyRide to see if a bicycle cart could be adapted for Sophie.
It turned out that DoggyRide had already discovered how their carts could be used for handicapped and elderly pets. They made it easy to order a trailer and add a front wheel and handles. We immediately purchased a cart and it was a godsend. Sophie sat comfortably inside the cabin while we pushed her around the neighborhood. She felt safe and happy. We used our Doggyride nearly every day until the time came when Sophie’s health deteriorated and she couldn’t sit up on her own. Sophie would happily hang her head out the front of the cabin to see the sights and enjoy the smells of our neighborhood. It was a small victory in our attempt to make our paralyzed pup feel more like a normal dog.