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Wheelchairs and Pets: Be Careful Where You Roll
October 3, 2013 Blogs

Service-Dog1One of the saddest stories I ever heard in “the life and times of a wheelchair-user” came directly from someone I met in physical rehabilitation. She had a penchant for kitties, and always seemed to have a new one in her home. Pets have long been a great solution in helping people overcome difficult situations, so it came as no surprise to me that this woman loved her cats.

Whenever I would visit her home they would come out of the woodwork, walking around our wheels with no fear, and every time I was deathly afraid of the worst-thing-ever from happening: Not seeing one of the cats and accidentally running one over. This is one of the greatest fears of any wheelchair-user with a small pet, in fact.  We all know animals aren’t quite smart enough to look out for danger, at least not all of the time.

It’s up to us to be vigilant 24/7 whenever we’re around them, and one hiccup can lead to certain disaster.  Sad to say, this is exactly what happened to my friend with her apartment of cats.  After getting a new kitten, it decided to hunker down behind one of her back wheels while she was at her computer, and when she backed up….. let’s just say the cat had no idea what hit it. That didn’t really make her feel better though, considering she was the one who was responsible.

As the years passed, I knew that the death of her kitten always stayed with her, making her feel guilty, and understandably so.  Being in command of a 350-pound wheelchair is a big responsibility.  It can be easy to forget just how much power your wheelchair can exert, but if you have small pets in your home, from cats and small dogs to exotic pets like ferrets, you must be aware at all times of where your wheels are going and what is in their way. This even goes for manual wheelchair-users if the pet is small enough.

My friend accidentally killing her kitten affected me quite significantly over these years, too. I never wanted to go through what she did, so I’ve taken a number of proactive measures in my home.  I have a cat named Daphne who’s old and not that bright.  Even though she’s fat and likely wouldn’t die from my wheelchair running her over, I still have her wear a bell on her collar so she jangles wherever she goes. Such an audio clue  may be the ultimate solution for a wheelchair user worried about running over a pet.

I even had a near miss at my mom’s house. She has a miniature Daschund, one of the most low-to-the-ground dogs out there. The dog is adorable, but oh my, is it not safe around wheelchairs.  Every time I’m there it always gets in my way accidentally, and it’s always quite scary.  Its legs are just too short to walk very fast.

Now whenever I visit, I ask someone to put my mom’s dog on my lap just to be sure nothing bad happens. The dog may not like it, but other than locking it in a room whenever I’m there, it’s the best solution.

Remember, the next time you think about getting a new pet, or maybe you’re getting your first pet as a wheelchair user, never forget the power of the wheelchair, especially when in the presence of smaller animals. It may be a hassle, but it’s of the paramount importance to protect our furry friends.

How do you make 100% sure you’re careful around your pet?

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  1. I agree with this! My dog Brody is a Chinese crested powder puff and weighs about 11 pounds. Whenever I take him for a walk, I tie his leash to the side of my power wheelchair. He loves when I go 4 miles an hour because he can run next to me. However, when I first started tying him on there, he and I learned quickly how dangerous it can be when I almost rolled over him. Now I watch his every move when taking him and he does the same to my wheels!

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