Monday, May 17, 2010
Merlin the Wheelchair Test Pilot
Since I am the cart coordinator for CorgiAid's Cart Loan program I usually have a few carts around the house. Hence, Merlin has been able to move from one cart to another as need arose.
My first wheelcorgi, Wesley, had a Doggon Wheels cart. It was a great little cart for Wes, and the only thing I don't like about the Doggon design is that the cart is a pain in the bunny butt to adjust- nuts, bolts, and pipe clamps.
When I got Candy, a friend gave me her dog's K9cart made in Langley, Washington. I liked the design and ease of use, so I ordered this kind for Merlin. However, we ran into a few more issues with Merlin's cart. He is taller, and the initial cart was too narrow; he could tip it over as he turned a corner. So I took it in and they made wider struts for it. I had asked for 8 inch wheels to begin with, as we like the larger wheels for rougher terrain. Next, the back bar on Merlin's cart started sliding, and after multiple attempts to tighten the set screws, the piece holding it broke. K9carts sent me a replacement part, but later I went and got their newly designed all-metal back bar.
I never liked the fleece-padded stirrups on the cart, so on both Candy's and Merlin's I'd substituted neoprene stirrups from Doggon.
As Merlin's front weakened, he started wanting to lie down all the time, so I rigged an Eddie's wheels cart to fit him, and counterbalanced it. Merlin did not like the front strap so I removed that but added a strap under his arms the same as the K9cart has. We again wanted larger wheels and not having any spare ones from Eddie's, he got 8 inch plastic wheels from the other K-9carts (hyphen between K and 9) located in Oxford, Maryland.
Then Merlin got sick (liver disease) and didn't want to walk, and as in the meantime Liz Ridgely's front extension had come back in, I rigged it for Merlin. Meg had replaced the wheels with roller skate wheels, but they were small, so I replaced those with 4 inch Razor wheels. The front support band she used was too wide for Merlin (since he is a boy) so I borrowed one from an Eddie's quad cart. There was too much weight on the front wheels, so I used Velcro One-wrap to move the saddle back up against the metal back bar, effectively counterbalancing the cart. On cement, if he wants to, Merlin can run in this cart. (He mostly does not want to.)
But now we are worrying about walking on the dike and the macadam road up on Whidbey. The front-extension isn't going to work well for that. I'm exploring a K-9cart east cart as theirs seems to have a better kind of front swivel wheel.
The one kind of cart Merlin has not used is a Doggon, but he did test-drive a Walkin Wheels cart last summer when Mark Robinson generously donated one to CorgiAid. We love the Walkin Wheels design but it is a bit heavy for a corgi- it worked for Merlin then as he was fairly strong and he is a big dog, but I'm waiting for their light-weight version to come out. (Walkin Wheels is great for big dogs as one-size adjusts for all.. if anyone has one they want to donate to CorgiAid, we'll take it, regardless of what breed it WAS for, as we can get it adjusted to fit our bigger corgis.) But we also hope they will soon have a front wheel or counterbalance option as otherwise their cart does not work very well for a dog with DM.
Other carts: there are a LOT of carts on the market. Many are not worth the price even if it is half of what Doggon, Eddie's, WW, or K9carts charges. One I saw does not have ANY saddle at all for the dog!! Some are poorly made, some are very heavy, some are PVC and easily broken. Buyer beware- if you buy an "off brand" cart make sure you can return it and investigate the company as much as you can first. If your dog has a bad experience in his first cart, he may never be willing to try another one.
As for Merlin, he says he is ready to become a stroller Test-Pilot, but I'm going to try to keep him walking for a little while longer.