I have 2 dogs, Poketz, and Sokz (pronounced: Pockets and Socks). My son and I adopted them a little more than 2 years ago from Best Friends Animal Society. I celebrate their “Gotcha Day” on July 22nd each year. They were found on the street together. According to the shelter, they had an obvious bond when they were brought in. And they still do!
They are thought to be siblings with the same mother and different “puppy daddies” (hmm, I wonder if I could sue for puppy support?). Who knew dogs have two uteruses and can be impregnated by separate fathers at the same time! I know several girls in high school and college that woulda been in even more trouble if this were possible among humans… just sayin’! And can you imagine the antics on Maury Povich?! Yikes!
Anyway, I digress. We were looking to adopt 2 dogs but thought we’d get one at a time. Well ya’ll, that’s not how The Universe works! My paw babies were brought in about 24 hours before we arrived. The trainers saw their bond and really wanted to keep them together. They were about 1-year-old and named Ken and Mia by the caretakers at the shelter. We went from cage to cage and were introduced to many dogs that day. These two had not even been assigned a cage yet. But when my babies came into the petting area, I knew they were special. My plan was to go home and get things set up for them. But The Universe put a wrench in that plan too.
As we were leaving we were told that a family (who was there earlier) came back and wanted to adopt Ken (Sokz). Some little girl loved him blah, blah, blah! I asked about Mia (Poketz) and they told me the family only wanted him. After watching them interact, I just couldn’t separate them! That little girl went home very disappointed that day. They were mine within the hour!
Using a motorized chair and a walker at home is a lot to get dogs used to. At first, they stayed in the corner sharing a dog bed and watching me. When I went near them they were wide-eyed and petrified. I felt so bad for them. In public, many dogs don’t know what to make of rolling humans. Some bark, some growl, and some have attempted to chase me. I had to figure out how to make my new babies feel safe. I’d had one other dog during the years of my disability but that was several years ago so I had to refresh my memory. First, I’d sit on my couch and let them sniff all over my scooter. I had a trainer who put treats on the floor of my chair so they could eat off of it. In about a month Sokz was all good! Poketz was much more reluctant so it took her a bit longer to get used to it and me. I taught them a word to get them outta my way. I say “MOOOOOVE” (kinda like a cow moos) and they know I’m backing up or that they are in my way. This also works when I’m using the walker. I have to be very careful when I am on my feet. I don’t want to fall while I am walking and hurt myself or one of them. The tricky thing with these two is…They are Australian Cattle Dog mixes so they like to herd. They will nibble my ankles or scratch my feet (even from my chair) to get me to go where they want. Also, they follow behind me through doorways or down the hall. Sometimes I feel like herded cattle. Sokz looks like a white ACD. According to the breeding info, he may become blind as he ages as many white or albino ACDs do. If this happens I’ll make sure my baby is safe and adapted. Poketz, acts like an ACD (sometimes) but looks like a heavy-set Beagle. I think her ACD tendencies are more about watching Sokz who is obviously the leader until they wrestle.. then she kicks his butt!
Teaching pooches wheelchair etiquette is tricky. But you don’t want to end up at the veterinarian due to a crushed paw or flattened tail! Knock wood, I’ve never run them over. Came close a time or two because Sokz can be squirrelly. He follows me everywhere! He lays in the kitchen when I cook and sits next to me as I write this blog. Poketz, is my little wide belly girl who looks pregnant. She behaves more like a diva cat… A quite literal BITCH! Unless you wanna pet her or give her a snack, she ain’t interested. I love my girl though.
Although it was tough the first few months, I have never regretted giving them my last name. If you are a wheelchair user here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a pet:
- Medium to large dogs are preferred as their limbs actually stand a chance in an accidental run over.
- Do your homework on the breeds. Smarter less temperamental breeds may train better, and adapt to your chair faster.
- Don’t get an animal that is difficult to control, mean or too large for you to manage
- A dog beyond puppy years is suggested, as an overly playful pup can be easily hurt or even chew your wheels.
- If you have to rely on others to help you with feeding or if you’re unable to feed them on a schedule, pick up an automatic feeder. I have one that feeds at specific times AND measures the food. I fill it up once per week AND I bought a splitter so that one feeder can feed both dogs (may need two feeders if your dogs fight over food).
- Before you start training them to sit or do tricks, get them used to your chair, this will prevent future injury.
- If you have to pick up their poop, purchase a clamp scooper that you can operate with one hand, and make sure you can put a bag on it so you don’t have to clean it… yuck!
- Get a trainer or take your pooch to training classes. This will help them and reduce your frustration. In the beginning, you may feel as if you’d made a mistake, but hang in there!
- If you have a yard where they poop, but have difficulty cleaning u after them, there are companies who will keep your yard poop free! I have a company cleans up my yard once per week. I didn’t know there were businesses like this (a shitty job.. ha)! FYI relying on neighborhood kids or teens is a Jedi Mind Trick… DON’T DO IT! The flies will teach you a lesson you’ll never forget!
I love my paw babies. They keep me company, make me laugh, protect me, and love me unconditionally! Feel free to reach out in the comments, if you have any questions about wheelchair pooch parenting. I’m happy to help!
Love, Light, and Paw-enting!