Jasper’s Story - How a Dog Wheelchair Helped Jasper
Jasper is an Australian Cattledog/Blue Heeler cross - with what, we don't know. He came into our lives last Christmas on 23rd December 2010, which I have affectionately given him as his "birthday", as it was the first day of the rest of his new life. I found him wandering the carpark of our local community shop looking very bedraggled, exhausted and tired. No one paid any notice to him but I did. I saw him wearily wandering about and I stopped my car to go to him before he was hit. He was so obviously neglected, if not dumped. But he was wary about my approach and it took me some time to catch him. When I did get close enough he trotted right by me and jumped into my car and sat on the floor at the pedals. I took him home thinking I would reunite him with his owners (as I have done with many wayward pooches in our area), but alas, he had no tag - only an old rusty chain as a collar. I took him to be scanned and he did not have a microchip either. He was very obviously old, slightly crippled and seemed to not be toilet trained or he had an incontinence problem. I rang some shelters and no one could take him, and for me the pound simply was not an option. He would be destroyed within the week because he had no chip, and no one wanted an old crippled dog.
The first week or so we called him Blue, being a Blue Heeler, but as it was obvious he was here to stay I wanted to come up with name that showed some thought into choosing one. I'd just finished reading the Twilight series again, so Jasper came to mind. Somehow Edward did not cut it for a dog's name. *grins* We have an English Staffordshire Bull Terrier as well, and the two of them took to each other right away which was good because as a rule Jasper does not like other dogs.
The first thing on the agenda was to treat his skin condition, as he smelt awful shocking. I gave him a bath that first day and he cried. I could see the fleas running over him as I bathed him and I wondered really how long he had been on the streets. A visit to our vets told me he had an allergy to flea bites, and the smell was a result of an infection left untreated by those bites. He was given antibiotics and within a week or so he no longer had that "odour" and he had a spring in his step! He still had a few fleas but they were treatable and soon disappeared. Next, I got him desexed and microchipped, followed by his vaccinations and heartworming. Finally I took the certificate to the council and had him registered. At last Jasper had a home where he was loved and cared for - his forever home.
From the time Jasper came to us we noticed that he wasn't very strong in his back legs and quite possibly would lose the use of them before long. The vet informed me that he had a neurological condition which prevented messages from his brain telling his back end to work. So, his incontinence was due to the fact he wasn't receiving messages from his brain, and when he did leave "messages" he was completely unaware of the fact. He would do so in his sleep and even out for a walk – he was completely unaware. His incontinence was the first sign of this condition we had at the time, and sadly was more than likely the reason he was dumped. It was clear that Jasper was a very faithful dog, especially to me, though very wary of strangers often barking at the electricity meter man through the gate when he came to read our meter. I often joked he didn't bark loud enough because we still got them bill! *grins* He has a beautiful loving nature with a gorgeous "smile" that lights up his face. You always know when your dog is smiling by the look on their faces. And Jasper's would light up when he played ball or whenever I was around. After three months with us, Jasper could recognise my voice over the telephone's speakerphone and his ears would prick up listening to me.
Winter arrived early and the cooler days started taking a toll on his aging body. In May, we went on the Million Paws Walk for the RSPCA and the distance was too far for him, and I ended up carrying him for most of the way. He enjoys a walk, as dogs do, but while the mind was willing, the body wasn't. During the colder months we brought him inside to sleep as it was too cold for him outside, even though Australia's climate is more temperate than some, it's still cold. It was during these months his body declined. Suffering arthritis as well we as the neurological condition, and now dementia, he still battled on and at dinner time he would race my Staffy to the dinner bowl!
By the end of August we noticed just how much of a toll winter had taken on him as it became more of a struggle for him to walk without falling down. Even barking at the gate would result in him falling to the ground, often still barking at whoever was there. Now, he can't stand or walk a few steps without his legs giving way beneath him. Then adding dementia to the equation the poor boy can no longer understand why he can’t walk, run or even stand they way he used to. After watching his wonky walk from his fervent bone-searching in my parent's backyard one day, I decided to look into a wheelchair for him. I googled carts for dogs and the Walkin' Wheels chair was the first on the list. I have to admit I didn't look at any others after looking into the Walkin' Wheels. I did browse to see what else there was but nothing compared to what the Walkin' Wheels offered. It didn't take me long to decide as for me, ensuring the comfort and quality of life for Jasper was an important enough reason. I love the fact that it is completely adjustable to suit any dog between 20 and 180 pounds, which is a wide range, and knowing that even when Jasper's gone, the Walkin' Wheels cart will still be of use to another dog because it was not custom-made just for him. To me, that makes it value for money.
I rang the Handicapped Pets customer line several times in the next few days and spoke with a wonderfully helpful representative who helped me decide on ordering through them in the US rather than through one of their resellers here in Australia, as even with the high cost of shipping it was still far cheaper to purchase from there. She was incredibly helpful and sent me some information and a step by step process of introducing your dog to the cart. I was most impressed with the service which made the transaction worthwhile and pleasant. The cart arrived within 12 days and even following the introductory steps, Jasper was neither phased or perturbed by the cart or the front harness, and within a couple of hours Jasper was wandering our yard with his new wheels! Soon after we could see that "spark" come back into his face which had long been absent at the sheer effort and often frustration, it took him to walk or even stand these days. Watching him in the cart even just on the grass in the backyard you could see that smile return. And while he can no longer take lengthy walks, he does enjoy shorter ones with his Walkin’ Wheels which made my decision to buy them for him worthwhile.
I know that while Jasper is an old dog we don't know how long he has left. What with his ailing body, incontinence, arthritis and dementia, I just want to be able to give him the best possible chance and the best possible care I can with whatever time he has left. Sadly watching him now, I doubt he will be with us next winter, but I know I will have done what I can for him. All I can do is continue to love him and look after him, because I know that no matter what he is grateful for all I have done for him in the short time he has been with us. My husband told me just recently that despite his reservations about the purchase, after seeing the joy on Jasper's face and the little spring in his step, he believes that my purchasing the Walkin’ Wheels was the best thing I have done for him. But I know what Jasper thinks - my rescuing him from the streets and a sure lonely death is the best thing I've done for him. His Walkin' Wheels is a close second! *grins*