Shadow is a happy dog.
The 7-year-old German shepherd, who was left unable to walk because of a genetic disease, is mobile once again, thanks to a donated dog wheelchair.
Shadow was struck with degenerative myelopathy, a progressive genetic disease that affects the spinal cord and often results in paralysis.
About a month ago, his owner, Roland Chavez, received a dog wheelchair for Shadow from the Handicapped Pets Foundation.
He said the wheelchair, which is attached to shadow’s torso with a harness and has wheels that support his back legs, has completely changed both his and Shadow’s lives because Shadow can once again run, be independent and enjoy life.
“It takes a week or so to get used to,” Chavez said about Shadow’s introduction to his new wheelchair. “Their first instinct is to go backward, so you have to teach them to go forward. Now he thinks he can walk wherever he wants.”
Between the time Shadow’s myelopathy set in and the time he got his wheelchair, about a nine-month period, Chavez said he saw the dog’s usually happy demeanor change drastically.
“He was so sad,” he said. “He didn’t understand why he couldn’t do things. He didn’t eat, he didn’t want to go for rides. He was just sad all the time.”
After the Handicapped Pets Foundation provided Shadow with a wheelchair free of charge, a $436 value, Chavez said, the old Shadow was back.
Now he can be seen around Olde Town, leading the way on his walks.
“Once he got his wheelchair, we could see his happy face again,” Chavez said. “He’s back to enjoying life now.”
The Handicapped Pets Foundation is a nonprofit foundation that donates wheelchairs and other mobility equipment to owners of elderly, injured and disabled dogs.
The foundation was started by Mark Robinson, who created HandicappedPets.com, a website that sells equipment for pets with special needs.
“I started the website as a vehicle where owners of handicapped pets could talk to each other,” Robinson said. “People who were taking care of their pets, they had no support system. Then they told me what they needed, and I provided it for them.”
The foundation provides between 75 and 100 animals each year with mobility assistance.
Most recipients are dogs, but the foundation has also helped cats and rabbits, giving them a Walkin’ Wheels adjustable wheelchair, Robinson’s own invention.
“It’s such a privilege to be able to help people like this,” Robinson said. “I feel like I’m helping them keep their families together.”
In order to qualify to receive a wheelchair, families only need to apply and be able to prove they are facing hard times financially, usually through proof of financial assistance, Robinson said.
Once a pet is approved, donations are collected to raise money for the wheelchair or Robinson donates one from his website.
Because the wheelchairs can be adjusted for different sizes of dogs, they can be donated from one dog to another.
“I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the cart,” Chavez said. “People praise you when they see you go that far for your pet. The pets are what it’s all about. You do whatever you can.”
For more information about the Handicapped Pets Foundation, to donate or apply for assistance, go online to www.hpets.org.