Dog News

Elvis gets mobility with his new wheels

by Karen Harrison Binette

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The Richmond SPCA in Richmond, Virginia is helping a special little special needs dog to regain his mobility and hopes to find him the perfect home.

Restoring Elvis’s freedom of movement has been a labor of love that has drawn on the skills, specialties and compassion of SPCA staff and volunteers alike. The 4-year-old shepherd and basset hound mix lost the use of his legs due to a spinal cord injury that occurred in his prior home. This type of injury occurs more commonly among dogs of his shape.

The first step in giving Elvis mobility came from a set of donated wheels – specifically Doggon’ Wheels – donated by staff member Jenna Stewart. However, the cart was designed for a dog with much longer legs. Elvis’s basset hound heritage shows in his low stature, and his unique mix with shepherd makes for an unusual weight balance. Canine wheelchairs are not made for his distinctive profile, but that’s where Brian Burkhardt’s specialty as an assistive technology engineer for the Veteran’s Administration came in. Brian devoted time and skill to re-engineer the cart, customizing it just for Elvis. The cart manufacturer donated a harness for Elvis and additional parts for the project.

Before his cart was ready, Elvis would become exhausted with the effort of moving even small distances. His first time in the cart, he saw another dog and was inspired to make a new friend. Elvis took off with Associate Veterinarian Dr. Kristen Talbott in tow! She shared his delight that he could choose where he was going, and was happy to follow along as Elvis regained his ability to walk, run and explore as a dog should.

The Richmond SPCA’s Green Team volunteers along with animal care staff have provided daily enrichment for Elvis. The animal care team gives him regular tub time to keep him clean, and their trainers have provided Green Team volunteers with training tools and goals for skills Elvis should have that will help management of his condition in a home. With their loving care he is gaining endurance, strength and confidence in using his cart. Paralysis presents special challenges and will require an exceptional person or family to welcome this special dog into their home. Elvis is paralyzed below the waist, and the resulting incontinence means he needs to be diapered. A handicap accessible home with a ramp for his cart would be ideal.

Watch Elvis in his custom wheeled cart: