Pigeon, a pittie mix, was rescued after a car accident left her without the use of her back legs. She did rehab and got around by scooting on her back legs. But her owner, Erica, wanted Pigeon to have more mobility, so she got her a custom-fitted wheelchair. Pigeon was strapped in and she immediately took off running, zooming around the room with glee.
"The second we put her in a wheelchair, she became a different dog," Erica told Inside Edition. "Most dogs don’t take to their wheelchairs immediately. Pigeon truly acted as if her chair was an extension of her body, and it was amazing."
You can see Pigeon's reaction to her new wheels in the video below. She has quite a following on Instagram.
Dogs sometimes get wheelchairs (also called carts) when they don't have use of their back legs or their limbs are weakened. They might have spinal cord injuries, severe arthritis or hip dysplasia, back injuries or strokes, says Georgia Bottoms, owner of Fetch Canine Rehab in Savannah, Georgia, where Pigeon was treated.
"Each dog is different [in how they] adapt to using the cart," Bottoms tells MNN. "Some are scared, some just take off. So, there is usually a learning curve except if you are Pigeon. She just took off and now she is a star."
Bottoms says she doesn't immediately try a wheelchair for a dog, but it can be a good choice for a pet that wouldn't move without it.
"I believe in exhausting all options before looking into a chair," she says. "But the chair affords dogs a better quality of life and the ability to gain some independence back."
Here's a look at some other dogs that gained mobility with a little human help.
When a 2-year-old German shepherd was found paralyzed and abandoned in the desert, two members of the Arizona Humane Society's animal care team created a makeshift wheelchair out of PVC pipe and harnesses. From the moment he first tried out his new wheels, Angel was able to effortlessly zip around. "Everyone marveled at Angel as he wheeled past them with his head held high and an enormous smile on his face!" announced the shelter, while documenting Angel's progress.
No surprise, but this happy pup was quickly adopted.
Handsome Kanuk in his pink wheelchair. (Photo: Lucky Lab Rescue and Adoption/Facebook)
Kanuk had some sort of spinal cord injury that left him without the use of his back legs. But that has never kept this Austin, Texas, Labrador from playing and having fun. Someone donated a pink wheelchair to Lucky Lab Rescue and Adoption just for him, and Kanuk uses it to enjoy long walks with his friends.
Sheena Main recalls when she knew her pup Daisy was "the one."
"For me, I saw a video of Daisy practicing how to walk in her then new wheels," she said on Instagram. "Despite the challenges, her tail was wagging and she seemed so happy. A piece of my heart was stolen that day, but Daisy filled it with her love."
Daisy had been abandoned on the streets of Los Angeles as a puppy, likely because of a congenital issue that makes it difficult for her to get around. Because the wheel cart put a lot of pressure on Daisy's spine, Main later switched to prosthetic legs to give her more freedom ease the pressure on her spine. As you can see in the video below, she's mastered them like a champ!
Albert is a plucky little Shih Tzu-poodle mix who also happens to have a personalized license plate on the back of his cart. He loves going to the beach and the lake with his foster brothers, and the sand doesn't slow him down. He has more than 106,000 followers on Instagram who helped his mom buy him new wheels when his old set became worn down and rusty. The extra funds, she said, would go to the shelter where Albert and his brother Norman were rescued.
A dog's personality matters when it comes to adapting to cart, says Bottoms.
"The personality of the dog is huge and helps them in learning their surroundings with the cart, turning radius, backing up, judging their width," she says. "Dogs with stronger personalities seem to do better."
Gem was only a few weeks old when she was horrifically abused. Her spine was injured and she lost the use of both rear legs. But the spirited German shepherd and husky mix still could wag her tail, and she does it all the time. She quickly adapted to a cart and uses it to race around, even in the snow. It doesn't stop her at all, says her owner, Erin Manahan.
"She tries to do everything her husky sisters do and keeps up no problem," says Manahan, who once had to dive into cold Lake Superior in April to get Gem when she decided to go swimming. "It's hard to explain to a dog that carts don't float!"
Nothing stops Gem, who has gone up and down mountains with her wheels.
Not the answer for every dog
Shawn Aswad, founder and director of Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue in Thompsons Station, Tennessee, has had more than a dozen dogs get fitted for wheels, due to congenital issues and accidents.
"There are few dogs that love using their carts. Most dogs would rather drag or hop and get around on their own," she tells MNN.
But when they drag or hop, dogs can end up getting bad sores. So the carts are a great option for going on walks or playing in the yard. They don't wear them long — just long enough to get some good exercise.
"For any paralyzed dog, we want to give them a chance at mobility," Aswad says. "So for any paralyzed dog we’re going to try. They’re all going to have a cart. How much they use it depends on how much they retaliate against them."
The rescue currently has a pup named Nimzy that had surgery for a spinal deformity. She has limited use of her back legs, so the cart improves her quality of life.
"Nimzy likes to be able to go for walks with everybody else. She loves that part of it and she loves to be able to put her wheels on and be able to go out and play in the yard.
Here's a Snooty Giggles pup named Taxi the first time she put on her wheels and was able to run and play with everybody else.