November 09, 2022

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

It’s a devastating scenario 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 at some point and was abruptly unable to stroll. After being recognized with intervertebral disc illness (IVDD) and present process sophisticated and expensive 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 super 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 web site… all of those objects 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 might not be reasonably priced 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 varieties 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 begin Gunnar’s Wheels?

My canine Gunnar was hit by a automobile 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 present him the perfect probability at restoration, we paid for again surgical procedure. It price $6,000-$8,000. We maxed out our bank cards to save lots of Gunnar’s life. They mentioned the surgical procedure was solely 50/50.

Once we obtained him again residence, I began researching the easiest way to look after a paralyzed canine. I didn’t even know there have been canine wheelchairs. For his measurement, wheelchairs run about $500. That was cash that we simply didn’t have. An area newspaper reached out and wished to do a narrative on him. They arrange an account at a neighborhood financial institution the place individuals may 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 individuals? 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 via. We (Steph and Mike) went via our personal harrowing expertise earlier this yr when our canine Django turned quickly paralyzed because of Intervertebral Disc Illness (IVDD). Fortuitously, Django had surgical procedure instantly, was capable of regain feeling in his again legs, and has been capable of 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 performed with it. At the moment, we have now over 3,500 chairs worldwide and have helped over 5,000 animals.

I’ve individuals ship their pet wheelchairs again to my work tackle. It’s cheaper to ship a pet wheelchair to a enterprise than a non-public residence. Once we ship canine wheelchairs in another country, we by no means ask for them again. We ask pet dad and mom 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 might throw a dart on the world and land in a rustic the place we have now a canine wheelchair.

Django Dog Blog-Gunnar's Wheels-King Louie

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

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

It’s simpler simply to present individuals the details about the place they will get a front-wheel cart after which attempt to assist them via 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 industrial pet wheelchair producers.

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

Now we have 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 might 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 convey the pet wheelchair there and spray it down with disinfectant. It sits there for about 24 hours to kill micro organism and viruses that may be on the cart. I clear all of the help harnesses, leg rings, and stirrups. Then grasp dry them exterior. I wash about three laundry a great deal of delicate components per week. I exploit totally different colour zip ties to trace what got here with every chair.

What measurements do it is advisable to 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. Now we have had some small puppies in additional small carts, and people issues are actually tiny. A few of the pet wheelchairs are extra customized like Eddie’s Wheels. They’ve 15-16 measurements that individuals must do as a result of they’re customized wheelchairs.

The pet wheelchair producers that I take care of typically 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 in the long run stage of degenerative myelopathy (DM), the subsequent 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 high of Gunnar’s Wheels ready listing?

Rescue and shelter animals are all the time first on our listing. Typically animal rescues won’t take an opportunity on a paralyzed pet as a result of they assume, “Now we have to purchase a $500 wheelchair and nonetheless get vetting performed.” 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 mild 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 imagine 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 little bit bit about the way you match up canine and wheelchairs

When individuals ship their canine wheelchairs again, we ask them to incorporate an image and a short bio of their pet for the subsequent recipient. It helps with the grieving course of and provides the subsequent proprietor of the wheelchair a little bit little bit of hope. Some individuals have linked and change 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 a few of 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 reasonably see individuals hold 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 energetic GoFundMe web page. We get sporadic donations from that. With the pet wheelchairs that we have now in inventory and the wheelchairs we get again daily, we function on our Fb donations. Now we have 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 monthly. Relying on what measurement chair a canine wants, if we wouldn’t have it in inventory, Fb donations cowl 5-6 new chairs monthly. We get between 5-10 requests per day for wheelchairs for canine. There are 50-60 pets on our ready listing.

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

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

Whereas Gunnar may 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 all the pieces. Now we have to alter 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 can even choose Gunnar’s Wheels as your charity on AmazonSmiles.


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