For my first installment I chose a project that I think would tug at the heart strings of most pet owners. After all, gearheads have hearts too, right?
My fiancé and I recently adopted an older dog. He is a Pug and, at the time we adopted him, he was about 13 1/2 years old. His backstory isn’t terribly important, but suffice it to say that his previous owners decided he was quite old enough and tried to have him put down. After the vet refused, he ended up with a rescue organization, who placed him with us. The name he came with is Shamrock and, since he had it for so long, we decided to keep it.
He was born in 1998 and, like many things from the late ’90s (boy bands, computers, American cars) his age is very obvious — at 14 1/2 he is pretty old by Pug standards. This last year, especially, has been hard on him. He had some degeneration in the rear end when he came to us and, for a time, he was still able to move around on his own. Not long after new years, though, he began to lose that ability. By March his rear legs could no longer support his own weight.
We looked at the wheel chair options and were surprised at the quality and variety of what is out there. Unfortunately we were also surprised by the prices. Obviously you get what you pay for, but when you get down to it the designs are pretty simple. I started to do some research on what others in my position did. As I hoped, I found many who built their own.
With their designs for inspiration, I hit the local Home Depot. My frame is built from 3/4″ PVC plumbing with a u-shaped safety pipe at the shoulder support. The front harness is a standard piece and it is attached to the shoulder support with simple wire ties. The rollers are lawn mower wheels on simple 1/2″ bolts for axles.
In designing the frame, I took my time and basically eyeballed everything, then went back and checked to make sure everything was even with a tape measure. For support during the mock-up I used an old towel with holes cut for his legs. I ran in to a problem, however, when trying to come up with a more permanent saddle solution. Long story short, it turns out I am crap with fabric. After several failed tries, I decided to order something instead. I settled on a Walkin’ Lift Clip On Harness from HandicappedPets.com because it is designed to clip in to one of their chairs. This made it very easy to secure to my design with some robust wire ties.
Shamrock is a big fan or the chair and his mobility improves dramatically when he is in it. Once it was clear that everything was the correct size and he was comfortable, I used some self tapping screws to hold the pipes and joints together.
He still had trouble with dragging his rear feet, though. I had several options, but the easiest and cheapest was simply a pair of reusable zip ties. This allows for some adjustability and easy replacement. He doesn’t need them when he uses the chair indoors, but he moves much better outside.
In all, I think the project was a success. Does it make him less annoying at dinner time? No. Does it make him less stinky? Certainly not.
But it does mean he can get the exercise he needs and that is a big deal for his quality of life.