Thank you to Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair customer John Stevens from Massachusetts for contributing these instructions for custom fitting the wheelchair for an amputee. John custom fitted this “stump hammock” for his 10-year-old dog Jasmine, who lost her right rear leg. Jasmine (Jazzy) is a long-coated Rottweiler, shown in photos below.
This is how I figured out the “hammock tension” for Jasmine.
- A dog her size and shape carries 75% of their weight on their front legs. Since Jazzy is 80 lbs., the remaining 25% equals 20 lbs.
- I set up her hammock rather loosely, by affixing the stationary side and the rear of the canvas to the frame. I used grommets where the zip ties went thru the fabric to avoid rip-outs. I zip-tied the inside of the hammock to the foam-covered strap from her good leg. Then I stretched out the back of the hammock by affixing the initial strap to the left rear corner. The pictures tell it much better than I can write it.
- Now here’s the tricky part: I set the wheels a little high and left the hammock a little loose. I harnessed her up and put her remaining rear leg on a bathroom scale. At this point, it registered 20 lbs., which is her entire rear end poundage. I played with the wheel height and strap tensions until the bathroom scale registered only 10 lbs. under her single back leg. Making sure the hammock was snug around her stump, I could assert that the off-side was carrying 10 lbs. also. That’s half of the 25%; in this case 10 lbs.
- It took several days and a lot of adjusting and coffee, but it actually came out perfectly.
I made some other small changes like cutting down and re-drilling the front frame sliders to get her butt and stump closer to the back of the chair. Left as it was, her remaining leg was too far forward and hampered by the foam-covered strap. Keep in mind that the missing leg actually starts at the butt and goes forward, but where it joins the torso it’s more aft, so it was necessary to have support all the way back.
Most amputees have to hop. By re-fitting this chair like I did, Jasmine is able to retain the four-legged dog gait. This means her spine stays straight, her rear leg gets walking benefits rather than constant hops, and of course it helps to protect her remaining hip. Jasmine only uses this chair on long walks. She can go over a mile comfortably, but I don’t push the envelope. Mile+ every two days is fine.
Basically, it’s within everyone’s grasp to custom fit a chair. I did have the advantage of having built a slew of choppers and also many boats!
Thank you again to John Stevens for helping others to customize their dog wheelchairs.