Everyday Adventures in Havachon Heaven

The Good, Crazy, & Adorable Life of One Havachon Puppy

Doggy Wheelchairs

The visit last week from our friend in the wheelchair and the process of Daisy becoming familiar and comfortable with it made me think about dogs who need “wheelchairs”. We’ve all seen them – those amazing videos of dogs missing their hind or front legs and using little wheelchair-like devices to get around. We always marvel at how at ease and agile these pups are with their new appendages, but Daisy’s adjustment to my friend’s wheelchair made me realize that there must be a learning curve.

I mean, dogs aren’t just born with an innate ability to romp around with wheels attached to them any more than humans are. But, like humans, dogs are adaptable and resilient. The question is – how do we help them through their adjustment period?

I'm so glad there are wheelchairs for my fellow doggies who need them!

There’s a wonderful article in The Daily Puppy about just that. It also discusses other issues, like the fact that not all wheelchairs are right for every dog and other reasons besides missing limbs that may cause the need for a doggy wheelchair, like back problems, paralysis, and leg problems. Sometimes dogs only need a wheelchair for a short period of time, like during rehabilitation after an accident or surgery.

I found it surprising that dog wheelchairs didn’t began being sold commercially until the 1990’s. Before that, dog owners with lame dogs either had them euthanized or built their own wheelchairs to keep the dog from dragging itself around, which caused injury and infection. But with a wheelchair, dogs can continue to function and live normal lives, participating in many of the activities they’ve always known. In fact, some dogs even enter races, just like wheelchair-bound humans do!

It’s important not to just hook a dog up to the first wheelchair (sometimes called “dog carts” too) you find. The wheelchair needs to suit the dog in size, fit, and comfort. There are plenty of places to find doggy wheelchairs, including lots that are made right here in the USA, such as at Dogs To Go, Wheelchairs For Dogs, and K-9 Cart.
There’s also a blog about how one person built their own dog’s wheelchair so you can create your own if you’re so inclined.

There’s even a book about a dog named Shorty and his wheelchair! Check it out at Shorty Stories: A Story about a Dog and Her Famous Wheels.

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Daisy and Our Wheelchair Visitor

I like my new wheelchair friend!

One of my dearest friends is in a wheelchair due to a severe, yet somewhat obscure, disability that attacks the muscles. It’s a degenerative disease, and for some years now, her mom has had to push her around. She can no longer manage it herself.

Yesterday they came over for a Christmas luncheon party. This is the third time Daisy has been exposed to the wheelchair, and each time she becomes a little more accustomed to it.

The first time, she was afraid of it. I guess it was the idea of a big contraption that moved oddly with a person on it that confused and scared her. She sniffed at it from afar, then slowly and very carefully approached it until she was finally able to stretch her body forward and sniff the wheels. When my friend spoke to her, she jumped back a bit, as if this piece of machinery had come to life.

This didn’t completely surprise me; several years ago, I wrote an article about multi-generational music lessons and how they helped young children lose their fear of medical equipment by putting them in the same room with elderly folks who were playing the same instruments they were. Things like oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, mobile IV units and such can scare young children – sometimes to the point that they can’t visit elderly relatives who use this equipment. So once again, puppies and children can share a common fear.

Now Daisy still approaches the wheelchair with a bit of caution, but once my friend is situated at the table, Daisy jumps on the wheels just like she jumps up on people’s legs when she first greets them. This makes my friend feel very happy. She loves dogs and, even better, Daisy reminds her of her own late beloved dog, who she played with in her youth, before this illness manifested itself.

Much like the children in the multi-generational music lesson article, I think the best way to introduce dogs to something outside their little worlds is to let them get used to it on their own, gradually. As much as my friend wanted us to put Daisy on her lap the first time we brought her over, it would have been a mistake to force her into an uncomfortable position so fast. Letting her get used to the wheelchair, sniff it, sniff my friend’s legs, and stare at it for a while gave her the opportunity to adjust to it in her own way. So, when we finally did put her in my friend’s lap, she was at ease and happy to meet a new friend.

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