Special needs dogs hit the road

By Carol Bryant, FIDO Friendly magazine

“Traveling with a blind dog is not much different than traveling with a sighted dog”; “He adapted to his wheelchair immediately and uses a harness in the car”; “Road trips with a senior dog just require a little extra planning.” These are the comments echoed by the canine guardians of Little Bit, Benjamin, and Brandy Noel.

Ben gets around just fine

Their bodies may be injured but their spirits are never broken. Fido’s road can get bumpy occasionally as fate deals its cards, but as potholes are meant to be filled and broken bridges repaired, Fido too just needs some extra TLC to keep his motor running. With a host of products available to assist in his comfort and transport (such as those collapsible wheelchairs from www.handicappedpets.com), guardians have many resources to turn to when it’s time to hit the road.

When South Carolina resident Arlene O’Neil’s Labrador mix pooch, Little Bit, became blind, she knew it meant adjusting but never giving up. “To accommodate Little Bit’s size and lack of sight, my vehicles always had a full bench seat. Bucket seats were too confusing, as Little Bit could not see where he was in relation to the dashboardor gearshift. He never acquired what is referred to as ‘car legs,’ so the back floor of the car was always built up with blankets and pillows until it was flush with the back seat. This prevented him from falling off the seat onto the floor,” she proudly beamed.

“On the few occasions that Little Bit and I stayed in a hotel, a first-floor room was always requested. Upon arrival, I walked the room with Little Bit on leash, announcing and slapping the succession of furniture: door, couch, bed, bureau, etc. Within moments, Little Bit had the room mapped out in his mind and seldom made an error as he moved about the area. Traveling with a handicapped dog is only as complicated as you allow it to become.”

Raegan Hawk of LaVale, Maryland, knows first-hand how life can change in an instant. “Ben and I were out playing in the backyard with a ball. He screamed, fell to the ground, and could not move. He was eventually diagnosed with a ruptured disk.

Forty- eight hours later, he had permanent hind leg paralysis. Vets suggested I put him down.” Hawk soared like her namesake, swooping in and refusing to accept the grim news. Ben uses a dog wheelchair to get around, and he has easily adapted. “I express Ben’s bladder four times a day. He’s so smart and cooperative, lying on his side for me as we use a puppy pad and diaper. We have a routine established. It was an adjustment, but totally doable.

“Ben is amazing and has such a passion for life. As a Canine Good Citizen, he visits nursing homes and goodwill industries. I owe him the same loyalty. Ben loves his wheelchair and gets around just great,” Hawk related.

Leave no dog behind® and that means seniors, too. This writer traveled with a loving Cocker her entire 15 years, even when old age made things a bit more complicated. Thanks to a pet stroller, Brandy Noel was able to travel from sea to shining sea. More frequent pit stops for potty breaks and plenty of water for a thirsty road warrior were both mandatory and doable.

Fate holds the wristwatch, but we as guardians control the direction of the hands. Our dogs add so very much to our lives, from companionship to laughter, loyalty to unconditional love. A few adjustments in the road of life means sometimes taking the path less traveled. Finding an alternate route is sometimes a necessary diversion on life’s highway, and being able to stay on that highway with Fido makes the diversion worth it.

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