Our chariots of fur! Losing a limb can be a dog’s death sentence… but with their own special pet wheelchairs these pooches couldn’t be happier
- Specialist canine wheelchair-makers offer disabled dogs a happy future
- For between £250 and £800, owners can buy a specially made contraption
- Five delighted owners tell how their dogs have been granted a second lease of life
Border Terrier Baldrick (pictured) had to have his leg amputated
Racing across a grassy park or lolloping through surf on a beach, each of these dogs has an obvious lust for life.
Yet not so many years ago they could all have been put down. All of them have lost limbs or become paralysed and it used to be deemed too cruel for active animals to have such limited mobility.
Now, however, a host of specialist canine wheelchair-makers have sprung up offering hope of a happy future to disabled dogs across the world.
For between £250 and £800, owners can buy a specially made contraption that fits their pooch perfectly — whatever limbs it has lost.
‘These wheels give them back their freedom and the chance to be a normal dog again,’ says Liz Hennel of The Hope Chest, an organisation that helps fund canine mobility aids.
Here, five delighted owners tell how their dogs have been granted a second lease of life.
BALDRICK can keep up with the pack
When Baldrick the border terrier’s front left leg had to be amputated after a savage dog attack, he didn’t cope well with the aftermath.
‘He found it difficult to get around,’ says his owner Jane Williams, 47, ‘and was miffed at not being able to chase the cat or run around with the other dogs.’
The seven-year-old’s life radically changed in December 2015 when he was attacked while on the lead.
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‘It was gruesome,’ remembers Jane, from Dudley, West Midlands. ‘When you see your dog being shaken like a ragdoll, his neck and chest ripped open and bits of him flying around, you see it every time you close your eyes.’
As well as losing his left leg, Baldrick had hip and spinal injuries and his right shoulder was damaged, too, which stopped him being able to run around as well as a normal tripod — or ‘tripaw’ — dog.
‘He wasn’t coping,’ says Jane, who’d had him since he was a puppy. ‘Then I got a message from Liz Hennel at The Hope Chest. She’d heard about Baldrick on social media and wanted to meet.
‘She brought along her own dog Hope’s cart and measured Baldrick up. Nine or ten weeks later, his chair arrived, costing £500.
‘With a little bit of coaching and loads of treats, he soon got the hang of it. We’d go out two or three times a day to practise — although he did run over my foot a few times!’
Before the attack, Baldrick had been training for the Kennel Club’s Obedience gold award.
‘Having the wheels meant he could get back to training and he’s now got his award,’ says Jane, who has six other dogs.
‘He’s back to his old self — a happy-go-lucky boy. We go for three or four-hour walks and he’s straight in with all the others. He loves having a race and doesn’t get left behind.’
PIP’S EYES have got their sparkle back
Pip (pictured above) only got his wheels three weeks ago and has since been making great use of them
As he crashes over tree roots, tears through mud and careers into other dogs, Pip the springer spaniel barely seems to realise he’s in a wheelchair.
But until a few weeks ago, it was a very different story.
‘Around three years ago I noticed he was reluctant to jump into the car boot when we went for a walk,’ says his owner Diane Hipkins, 56. ‘I had to jolly him along and eventually I got him a ramp.
‘Then about a year ago he started to fall down on his back legs — he’d walk then just collapse and look at me as if to say: “I’ve had enough.” ’
Vets said that the arthritis 13-year-old Pip had been suffering from for a few years had become so severe it was causing paralysis in his back left leg.
‘We carried on trying to walk but around six months ago we had to stop — he’d just wobble about and people would look at me as if I was ill-treating him,’ says Diane, a graphic designer from Leicestershire.
‘It was devastating because both Pip and I love getting out and soon he became very depressed.
‘I felt helpless and desperate. The thought of losing him was unbearable yet I feared I was keeping him alive for my benefit rather than his. I was on the verge of putting him down.’ Then just over a month ago, she saw a picture of a dog on wheels on the internet and began researching the idea. Eventually she ordered a £280 set of wheels from UK firm Dogswheels.com.
‘I was quite excited when they arrived about three weeks ago. But when I put Pip in them he stood there looking at me as if to say: “What am I meant to do?” So I attached a lead and pulled him to give him the idea. And the next day he did it himself.’
Now they can go walking around their local woods once more.
‘The sparkle is back in his eyes. He stands by the door each morning now excitedly waiting to go out. I’m kicking myself for not getting them years ago.’
Just two legs, but MAC whizzes about
Mac (pictured above) was fitted with a wheel chair after he was hit by a car
When Mac was hit by a car and left for dead, there was no loving family to rush to his aid.
Instead the pitiful little puppy, whose back legs had been completely crushed, dragged himself around the streets of Kabul in Afghanistan by his front paws for days. Even when he was eventually found by a rescue charity called Nowzad, they thought the 11-month-old dog was too seriously injured to be saved.
‘Any animal set to be put to sleep is always fed first by the carer,’ says dog groomer Bryony Mehigan, 32, who eventually gave Mac a home in Suffolk. ‘But once Mac had eaten, he wanted to play with other dogs — he obviously wanted to live, so they just amputated his back legs instead.’
Bryony had heard about Mac through friends and offered to help. He arrived at Heathrow a few weeks later and had already been fitted with a dog wheelchair.
He was able to run incredibly fast and, after just a few days, bonded so well with Brary, one of Bryony’s other four dogs, that she decided to keep him.
‘Mac and Brary are a double act — I couldn’t split them up,’ she says. ‘Brary leaps up onto the sideboard and hands food down to Mac to share.
‘And if I ever can’t find my shoes or slippers, I know to look in a dog bed — Mac loves to steal things.’
Now two, Mac can walk a few steps on his front paws around the house and in the garden, but always uses his wheelchair on walks.
‘If he’s whizzing about you have to watch that he doesn’t go down a kerb or he’ll flip out of it — he doesn’t seem to realise he’s in it.
‘I don’t walk him too far or on difficult terrain because he’s only got two legs and once they’re no good, that’s the end for him. And I want him around for as long as possible because he’s perfect!’
NOTHING STOPS HECTOR . . . EXCEPT STEPS!
Hector the Beagle (pictured above) had been a disabled puppy that no one wanted
When Victoria Haddon heard about a disabled beagle puppy that no one wanted, she was distraught. A birth defect meant the nine-week-old couldn’t use one of his front legs, and his breeder was about to send him to a rescue centre.
‘The idea of this puppy languishing in a cage waiting for a home that probably wouldn’t come was unbearable,’ says 52-year-old Victoria, who lives in Norwich with husband James, three children and their older beagle, Reggie.
‘It was a big decision — we didn’t know if we could cope with such a dog. But once we knew, we couldn’t “unknow”,’ she says. ‘So after speaking to the vet — who said the loss of a front leg was more unusual than a back — we decided to adopt him.’
Initially, they just picked Hector up and carried him. ‘But as he got bigger it was more of a struggle,’ says Victoria, ‘especially as Reggie needed lots of exercise.
‘We tried a supportive harness to keep the weight off his front legs, which didn’t work very well, and a child’s buggy, which he didn’t like as he couldn’t sniff the ground or walk.’
An internet search led them to U.S.-based Eddie’s Wheels. James, an engineer, was impressed by what he saw so they ordered a chair for £600 and it arrived six weeks later.
‘We were all so excited but, when we put Hector in it, he had no idea what to do. We tried to coax him along with pieces of his favourite cheese and ham, but he just didn’t realise he could walk in the chair.
‘Eventually, a few days later when we were cooking sausages, Hector was so desperate to get at them he propelled himself forward for the first time.’
Now five, Hector’s a pro. ‘He guides himself with his good leg and goes at top speed,’ says Victoria, who wrote the book Hector’s Wheels about her incredible beagle. ‘He can brake on a hill and turn on a sixpence — nothing can stop him, except a barrier or steps. ‘It’s changed all our lives completely.’
PHOEBE DIVES INTO WAVES IN HER CART
Phoebe the Spaniel from Falmouth (pictured above) has a run on the beach
Paralysed overnight when a slipped disc hit her spinal cord and caused a blood clot, the prognosis for field spaniel Phoebe was not good.
An operation was possible but it gave her just a five per cent chance of walking again, leaving owners Kim and Ian Snowdon conflicted.
‘It was hugely emotional because our other dog had just died and we couldn’t bear the thought of losing Phoebe,’ says mother-of-four Kim, 51. ‘She was loyal, loving and affectionate, a real member of the family.
‘In the end, we decided we had to give her every chance. If it didn’t work and we had to get her put down, then we’d have done everything we could.’
So in September 2013, when she was just four, Phoebe had the operation. Ten days later, after £11,000 of treatment, she was home.
‘We decided we’d give her three months,’ says Kim, a schools exams officer from Falmouth, Cornwall.
Each day, they’d put a harness on her to help support her back legs as she tried to walk and made regular trips to hydrotherapy to try to maximise mobility.
Improvement, however, was minimal and the most she managed was a few steps indoors. Kim sought the advice of a local vet. Staff said they knew lots of dogs who enjoyed a good quality of life with a dog wheelchair. So they ordered a set of wheels.
‘It took her two or three days to learn how to use them,’ laughs Kim, ‘but when she did, she never looked back — she was off and running until she was a speck on the horizon with Rafferty, our other dog.
‘When we go to the beach she’s learned to ram the gate latch open with her legs and hot tail it to the water’s edge. When I catch up, I throw stones into the waves and she dives in — wheels and all — to collect it.
‘She’s got her zest for life back. Getting her cart is the best thing we ever did.’
WHAT ARE THE TEN COMMONLY HELD MYTHS ABOUT DOGS?
It is easy to believe that dogs like what we like, but this is not always strictly true.
Here are ten things which people should remember when trying to understand their pets, according to Animal behaviour experts Dr Melissa Starling and Dr Paul McGreevy, from the University of Sydney.
1. Dogs don’t like to share
2. Not all dogs like to be hugged or patted
3. A barking dog is not always an aggressive dog
4. Dogs do not like other dogs entering their territory/home
5. Dogs like to be active and don’t need as much relaxation time as humans
6. Not all dogs are overly friendly, some are shyer to begin with
7. A dog that appears friendly can soon become aggressive
8. Dogs need open space and new areas to explore. Playing in the garden won’t always suffice
9. Sometimes a dog isn’t misbehaving, it simply does not understand what to do or what you want
10. Subtle facial signals often preempt barking or snapping when a dog is unhappy
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