Can you teach a big old dog to use a wheelchair? Yes, it turns out you can. My dear, sweet 15-year-old, 60 pound retriever mutt has been losing the use of his hind legs since early spring, and finally, in June, couldn’t walk at all. We were, to say the least, distraught.
Where did we find a wheelchair?
Turns out you really can get just about anything on Amazon. Indeed, they have a lot of wheelchair options for dogs, but most are of questionable quality and/or don’t come in big doggy sizes. And all of them are assemble-it-yourself adventures.
I have photos of my husband sitting on the kitchen floor assembling it, with the dog in question sitting right in the middle of the pile of pieces. I will not, however, post it because my husband would divorce me if I did. It was not an easy assembly, and I could not help for medical reasons. But he got it assembled in about an hour-ish, sorta, kinda.
How did doggy dearest take to it?
El-Doggo was a little confused at first. He is ultra sweet and loveable, but no one has ever accused him of being a rocket scientist. I think his, we’ll call “uncomplicated,” view of life made the acclimation process easier than it might have been for a dog that used its thinker thingy a bit more.
We hoisted his hind end up and into the cart, and he looked around like he was trying to figure out how we could be in front of him and also holding up his back half at the same time. Then he took a step, crashed a wheel into the wall and got stuck.
But once he got a few unobstructed steps in, he seemed to think he could simply walk again. His back legs make “air steps” sort of like “air guitar” with each step his front legs take, and I am pretty sure he thinks he is propelling himself with all four.
Has he acclimated well?
He goes everywhere outside with his wheels, and we have to keep him from too much off-roading because he has fallen a few times. But he goes for walks again! His front end gets tired (he is old) but one day he saw one of the across-the-street neighbor dogs and took off at a run across the lawn to go see him. I had to bolt to catch him.
Were there any unexpected downsides?
Yes. He can’t really use it inside the house. He crashes into things and runs over his doggy-sister daily, but the biggest reason is that he can’t lie down in it. He is 15 years old. Lying down is his primary daily activity. And, he now complains when we park him on a dog bed to go to work. He wants the mobility of his wheels now that he knows what he is missing.
Also, we still have to use his hind-end lift harness to get him into and out of his wheels and for quick trips outside. As soon as we lift his back end, he thinks he is in his chair and takes off, dragging us behind him as we hold him up. He may only have two-leg drive now, but he is still a tank!
How has this impacted your writing?
Despite doggo’s increasing needs and an injury I suffered, I am still making good headway on Devil in our Hearts. It is off to the editor getting copy edits. Yay! While it is out with the editor, I am working on some of the other time-consuming and stress-inducing tasks that go into getting a book out the door. Right now, I am working on cover design, which can be tricky and expensive for historical books, but it’s also pretty darned exciting.
Want to see some resilient doggos?
Here is a link to check out some wonderful free-wheeling dogs on Pinterest. They are so resilient and they adapt so quickly!