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    November 09, 2022

    Django Dog Blog - Interview: Gunnar’s Wheels, a Nonprofit That Donates Free Pet Wheelchairs To Paralyzed Dogs

    It’s a devastating state of affairs you by no means anticipated. Your canine experiences a traumatic again damage and is paralyzed. He might need been hit by a automotive and left to be a paraplegic from the devastating accident. Or maybe your canine jumped off the sofa in the future and was abruptly unable to stroll. After being recognized with intervertebral disc illness (IVDD) and present process difficult and dear again surgical procedure, he now wants assist getting round since his again legs nonetheless don’t work correctly.

    The price of care after a canine again damage is large in and of itself. Think about prescription medicines, a crate or pet corral for post-op restoration, a top quality canine harness and leash that does not disrupt your pup’s incision website… all of those gadgets and their prices add up shortly.

    In case your canine has been paralyzed from a again damage, additionally, you will need to purchase a canine wheelchair so your pup can transfer round freely and with out problem. Canine wheelchairs are costly—as a lot as $500—and will not be inexpensive to those that want them.

    Enter Gunnar’s Wheels. This fantastic Wisconsin-based nonprofit firm donates canine wheelchairs and carts to disabled pets in want.

    We caught up with Jason Parker, founding father of Gunnar’s Wheels, to speak about his beloved black labs, Gunnar and Bennie. We focus on why Gunnar’s Wheels was based and what kinds of pet wheelchairs it gives. We additionally chat in regards to the paralyzed animals it has helped and the way Gunnar’s Wheels stays afloat with donations from Fb or GoFundMe

    It’s good to talk with you, Jason! Are you able to inform us what impressed you to start out Gunnar’s Wheels?

    My canine Gunnar was hit by a car in February of 2014, and he was left  paraplegic. We took him to the College of Minnesota, and an MRI confirmed that he had a damaged again. To provide him one of the best likelihood at restoration, we paid for again surgical procedure. It price $6,000-$8,000. We maxed out our bank cards to avoid wasting Gunnar’s life. They stated the surgical procedure was solely 50/50.

    After we bought him again dwelling, I began researching one of the best ways to look after a paralyzed canine. I didn’t even know there have been canine wheelchairs. For his dimension, wheelchairs run about $500. That was cash that we simply didn’t have. An area newspaper reached out and needed to do a narrative on him. They arrange an account at an area financial institution the place folks might donate to Gunnar’s ongoing care. That’s how we afforded his first canine wheelchair. I’ve by no means been an individual to ask anyone for something. I used to be like, “How am I going to repay these folks? They helped out a canine they by no means met.” I began Gunnar’s Wheels in 2016. Sadly, Gunnar handed away in 2017.

    I’m so sorry for what you and Gunnar went by. We (Steph and Mike) went by our personal harrowing expertise earlier this yr when our canine Django turned briefly paralyzed resulting from Intervertebral Disc Illness (IVDD). Happily, Django had surgical procedure instantly, was in a position to regain feeling in his again legs, and has been in a position to make an almost-full restoration since his operation.

    How does Gunnar’s Wheels work?

    Gunnar’s Wheels is a lifetime loaner program. It doesn’t price our recipients something. We ask them to return the pet wheelchair when they’re carried out with it. Presently, now we have over 3,500 chairs worldwide and have helped over 5,000 animals.

    I’ve folks ship their pet wheelchairs again to my work deal with. It’s cheaper to ship a pet wheelchair to a enterprise than a personal residence. After we ship canine wheelchairs overseas, we by no means ask for them again. We ask pet mother and father to search out an animal of their nation that may use the wheelchair. It’s costly to ship them to Osseo, Wisconsin, from one other nation. Gunnar’s Wheels has wheelchairs in Canada, Africa, and Italy. You can throw a dart on the world and land in a rustic the place now we have a canine wheelchair.

    Django Dog Blog-Gunnar's Wheels-King Louie

    What sort of pet wheelchairs does Gunnar’s Wheels provide?

    Many kinds of pet wheelchairs have been offered, not simply rear-wheel or four-wheel. We’ve additionally provided front-wheel carts. These customized pet wheelchairs are constructed by an organization out in Montana. Sadly, it was offered inside the final yr. We don’t do too many entrance wheelchairs as a result of now we have so many rear wheelchairs and rear wheel recipients on the ready record.

    It’s simpler simply to offer folks the details about the place they will get a front-wheel cart after which attempt to assist them by the method. With funds being restricted, they get the identical low cost that I do. I don’t get as deep of a reduction with that firm as I do with the business pet wheelchair producers.

    Does Gunnar’s Wheels solely assist paralyzed grownup canine and puppies? What about different animals?

    We’ve helped rabbits, goats, sheep, child fawns, possums, and raccoons. We helped HandicappedPets design the primary ever tortoise wheelchair. Scoot Reeves was hit by a truck, and I reached out to HandicappedPets, who manufacture the Walkin’ Wheels model of pet wheelchairs. We went to work and figured it out, and Scoot Reeves remains to be utilizing his customized wheelchair. Now, there are 6 wheelchairs for tortoises which can be disabled of their hind legs across the nation.

    How lengthy does it take you to refurbish a canine wheelchair?

    The entire course of takes about 36 hours. I’ve a workshop under our home. I deliver the pet wheelchair there and spray it down with disinfectant. It sits there for about 24 hours to kill micro organism and viruses that could be on the cart. I clear all of the assist harnesses, leg rings, and stirrups. Then grasp dry them exterior. I wash about three laundry a great deal of comfortable components per week. I take advantage of totally different coloration zip ties to trace what got here with every chair.

    What measurements do it is advisable take for paralyzed pets?

    Pet wheelchairs use weight and Fold of the Flank (FOF) measurements. Cats are constructed like canine, so you possibly can simply use an additional small cart for them. We’ve had some small puppies in additional small carts, and people issues are actually tiny. Among the pet wheelchairs are extra customized like Eddie’s Wheels. They’ve 15-16 measurements that folks need to do as a result of they’re customized wheelchairs.

    The pet wheelchair producers that I take care of usually make adjustable wheelchairs. Walkin’ Wheels makes what I prefer to name convertible carts. As a result of I can flip that cart from a rear wheelchair right into a quad with only one attachment. They do make a entrance wheel attachment for the Walkin’ Wheels. If I’ve a boxer that wants a quad wheelchair ultimately stage of degenerative myelopathy (DM), the following canine that will get that chair might have a hind wheelchair. I can take that entrance wheel attachment off and match it with one other canine wheelchair. 

    Django Dog Blog-Gunnar's Wheels-Officer Bane

    What sort of canine are on the prime of Gunnar’s Wheels ready record?

    Rescue and shelter animals are all the time first on our record. Typically animal rescues won’t take an opportunity on a paralyzed pet as a result of they suppose, “We’ve to purchase a $500 wheelchair and nonetheless get vetting carried out.” We offer them with a free canine wheelchair. Then, hopefully, they will undergo the adoption course of. Animal shelters at the moment are disabled animals in one other gentle as a result of they’ve us of their nook serving to them get a wheelchair. Army working canine and police canine are additionally granted a pet wheelchair. I consider in these animals. They put their lives on the road for troopers and law enforcement officials. When K9s are injured within the line of responsibility, we assist them. 

    Are you able to inform us a bit of bit about the way you match up canine and wheelchairs

    When folks ship their canine wheelchairs again, we ask them to incorporate an image and a quick bio of their pet for the following recipient. It helps with the grieving course of and provides the following proprietor of the wheelchair a bit of little bit of hope. Some folks have linked and turn into associates due to these notes and photos. If I get a canine wheelchair with a narrative and an image of a pug, I ship it to a different pug proprietor. 

    It’s laborious to learn among the notes and see photos of animals I’ve by no means met. I do know the heartbreak of shedding an animal and what that animal meant to them. It makes me take into consideration shedding Gunnar. It’s like tearing the scab off once more. A few of these letters are simply heartbreaking, tear-jerking letters. We additionally get a ton of thanks letters contained in the canine wheelchairs. They’re pinned on a bulletin board in my workshop. 

    Does Gunnar’s Wheels have any company sponsors?

    My sister, Jaimee, takes care of all our company fundraising. Final yr, the Sunshine Basis donated $10,000, and we earmarked that cash for rescue and shelter animals. 

    Django Dog Blog - Bennie the Black Labrador

    The place else do you get donations from?

    When the pandemic started, I shut down fundraising. I’d slightly see folks preserve a roof over their heads and meals of their bellies than donate to a disabled canine. It was a tough determination for me to make.

    We nonetheless have an lively GoFundMe web page. We get sporadic donations from that. With the pet wheelchairs that now we have in inventory and the wheelchairs we get again every single day, we function on our Fb donations. We’ve a donate button on our Fb web page as a result of we’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group. It covers all our freight, which prices about $700 per thirty days. Relying on what dimension chair a canine wants, if we wouldn’t have it in inventory, Fb donations cowl 5-6 new chairs per thirty days. We get between 5-10 requests per day for wheelchairs for canine. There are 50-60 pets on our ready record.

    We even have a Gunnar’s Wheels bank card, and we itemize the whole lot. We guarantee each penny is accounted for, and each cent we elevate goes in direction of this undertaking. 

    We’re so sorry to listen to that Gunnar handed away. Are you able to inform us a bit in regards to the new canine ambassador for Gunnar’s Wheels?

    We adopted Bennie by the Beagle Freedom Challenge. Our black Lab-mix pet was a Chinese language meat commerce survivor. He has bought a rear wheelchair as a result of his again legs are paralyzed. Bennie hops like a kangaroo.

    Whereas Gunnar might maintain his poop and his pee, Bennie is incontinent. He wears a disposable diaper, a onesie, many pairs of youngsters’ shorts, after which a washable diaper excessive of the whole lot. We’ve to vary them 3-4 instances a day. However I’d not commerce Bennie for the world.

    Bennie is fortunate to have discovered such a loving household to look after him. Thanks for sharing Gunnar’s Wheels with our viewers, Jason!

    To donate, request a free canine wheelchair, or be taught extra about Gunnar’s Wheels, go to Gunnar’s Wheels’ Fb and GoFundMe pages. You may also choose Gunnar’s Wheels as your charity on AmazonSmiles.


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