Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Visit to Eddie's Wheels - WOW!

     OK, let me just say that I was blown away by my visit today.  Leslie, Hana, Hayley and Eddie all welcomed me to the shop and let me tag along while they had a very busy morning fitting 5 different dogs with wheels for a variety of issues.  After a great lunch at a local pub, Eddie and Leslie showed me all around the shop where they build the wheels, custom for every dog.

Sweet Pea in the rear wheel design
     Over the past 13 years, Leslie, an artist and potter, and Eddie, an engineer, have come up with a wonderful product for dogs and cats with a variety of mobility issues - from degenerative conditions, injuries, tumors, aging, disc damage and surgery - and more, of course.   The key piece to the design is the pelvic saddle, which supports the animal from the skeleton, rather than soft tissue.  The animal's legs go through the saddle, but are able to move freely without friction or chaffing.  Depending on the needs of the dog, the cart may lightly rest on the shoulders (not the neck) or be supported from below, putting no additional weight on the front end.  Another design works for animals with front leg problems, allowing the animal to propel himself from behind, while still being able to sit down and reach the ground without fear of toppling over.

Sweet Pea has rear wheels; buddies Webster & Willa have front wheels

       Additional designs include quad carts, which have four wheels for dogs with limited or no mobility on any legs.  These carts are helpful for dogs rehabbing injuries, or paralyzed dogs who would like to see more than the "corner of the room."  With a quad cart, the human can help the dog move from room to room or even stroll outside.  This change of scenery is not only good for the animal's mental health, but also improves comfort (the animal's body is stretched and aligned more normally) and helps to avoid bedsores and skin irritation associated with laying down for prolonged periods.  Plus, if you have a 75 lb dog, it makes life much easier if she can be moved on wheels rather than carried.

Clinic Cart
     The Clinic Cart is a special adjustable quadcart for use in veterinary practices, hospitals and rehabilitation centers.  It can be used with a range of dogs for rehabilitation, support and transport.  This is especially helpful after surgery and with larger dogs.

     The bodies of all carts are a special light weight aluminum, custom engineered for each individual dog to make sure the weight is balanced.  The dog is supported by his or her own weight, rather than any artificial device.  I was very impressed by the construction - durable and strong, while still being very light weight, well padded, and clearly comfortable for the dogs.  There were no rough edges or sharp ends anywhere.

     And all pieces of the cart (except the wheels) are made, manufactured and assembled right in the shop.  Each cart starts from just strips of aluminum, precisely cut down by a giant, impressive piece of computer aided machinery.  Once the parts are created, they are hand assembled by the folks at Eddie's Wheels and - viola! - within 2 weeks you have a custom cart ready for your dog.


     In less than three hours, I watched as 5 dogs were given the opportunity to get wheels.  Measurements were taken as well as full histories.  Leslie had some "recycled" carts on hand, so for most of the dogs, she was able to put a cart on that was almost right for them to try out.

     For the purposes of privacy, I did not take any pictures or video of the customer dogs, but let me say it was amazing.  It took only a few minutes for most of the dogs to figure out the cart, start walking and running.  Several immediately came out of their shell.  All had rapidly wagging tails.  There was no doubt whatsoever that the dogs were happy, having a great time and delighted with their wheels.

Beautiful Daisy
     I (being a complete sap) came very, very close to tears of joy.  It was a very moving experience.

     Where a close match could be made, the customers were given a "loaner" to take home and use right away until their custom cart was completed.  One unfortunate Corgi could not find a suitable loaner.  He tried one out that was too low behind.  It worked well enough for him to run around and visit with everyone in the store, clearly delighted.  But not well enough to go home with him.  The staff were concerned that it could cause problems due to the imbalance.  The Corgi did not agree with this decision.  As the cart was being taken off, he licked the frame and clearly showed his love for it!  But even after just 5 minutes in the cart, his entire personality and outlook changed.  He became happy and gregarious, interested in everything that was going on.

     I saw similar results with other dogs - a beagle who triumphantly picked up her finished cart checked out, literally, every inch of the shop and seemed disgruntled when she was told she could not maneuver the stairs (the carts are not to be used on more than one or two short steps).  A dachshund ran around pleased as punch with her hot pink loaner.  Luckily, that one fit well enough to be sent home with her.  Her dad was beaming and taking video in disbelief.

Eddie's Wheels Showroom
     You can visit Eddie's Wheels on-line at
     Now that we have been trained, New England Pet Hospice will be offering fitting services for Eddie's Wheels.  We can come to your home, help you measure your animal, help you select the correct product and deliver it when assembled, making sure the fit is correct.  We also train humans in the proper way to put the wheels on, adjust them and maintain them.  Fittings are complementary for our clients and provided for a small fee to the public within Eastern Massachusetts.  Please contact us if you are interested.

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