Pixel sitting in her jogger cart Pixel lying down in her jogger cart
Pixel in her jogger cart

Jogger Cart

how to take a mobility impaired dog for a walk

by Pam Green, © 2008

It's a challenge to take a mobility impaird dog for a walk, and it can be a challenge to leave that dog home while you take others for a walk. Here is one good answer, the use of a jogger cart.
The cart illustrated is a two-child jogger which can be converted to a bicycle tag-a-long cart. For a small dog, a one-child jogger would be quite sufficient. You can often find these carts at Thrift Stores. The one illustrated was obtained by me from the SPCA Thrift Store for $20 or $25 (I forget which). I've added some padding. Since these photos were taken I also added a plastic cover over the front wheel so there is no chance of a dog's foot getting into the spokes . That cover was cut from a one gallon juice bottle ; it's remarkable what you can make using such materials.
Uses for a jogger cart include :
My precious Pixel has been through an episode in which her use of her rear legs was very much impaired. She was totally unable to stand or walk for a while, partly due to neurological problems and partly due to weakness from a systemic MRSA infection. After her release from the UC Davis VMTH, I did physical rehabilitation exercises as taught to me by the VMTH physical therapist. Gradually Pixel regained the ability to stand and to walk. She now walks well enough to get around the house and yard comfortably and safely. She wanted to come on walks but I was afraid to take her more than a hundred yards or so, for fear she would "run out of gas" and need to be carried home. She weights 65 pounds, which is more than I can carry. That's when I started using the jogger cart. She rides in it like a princess in her carriage. Sometimes she sits up and sometimes she lies down. She is usually looking around with her eyes and her nose. She clearly enjoys her riding "walks". Sometimes I let her decend from the cart to walk for a couple hundred yards. Because there is no built in brake, I use a brick to block a rear wheel so the cart doesn't roll away as she enters or exits. I have to help her get in and out. I carry a bicycle pump in case we need it. I could also carry water and a bowl if needed.
The cart rolls quite easily on the flat so long as the surface is relatively firm. It's harder to push if the surface is soft or squashy. Uphill takes a bit more effort and downhill takes some holding back effort. I don't think I'd want to use this in San Franciso or in Rome, but for flat farm roads and up and over the levee, it is wonderful.
I am able to leash walk 3 or 4 other dogs, while pushing the cart ; of course those other dogs are well trained and do not pull nor lag behind.
I do want to make one thing perfectly clear : I am NOT using a "baby carriage" because I think of my dog as being a human baby or child. She is a dog, and she and I both appreciate her canine nature.
Dogs are similar to humans in many respects (social behavior and predatory nature) but they are different in many other respects. In some of those differences humans have abilities lacking or inferior in the dog (eg reading, mathematics, intellectual discourse, planning for the future, and finding ways to kill one another), and in some of those diffferences dogs have abilities lacking or inferior in humans ( eg "reading" livestock and herding them, any kind of olfactory work, reading human social signals and body language, and living harmoniously with one another without bigotry regarding ancestry or gender). And in some of the diffferences we are just so different that we regard each other as incomprehensibly weird (eg humans will probably never understand the delights of rolling in maggoty dead carp).
I use the "baby jogger" simply because it already exists and suits my purpose with only minor modifications. It's available at a good price at thrift stores, which suits my frugal nature. If the baby jogger were not available, I might use a Garden Way garden cart : that would not mean that I think my dog is a tomato plant or geranium. There are some jogger carts sold at pet supply stores that are labled as doggie carts. Mostly they are for smaller dogs and they are fairly costly.

The use of the cart enabled Pixel to enjoy participating in walks while she was rehabilitating from two episodes of rear leg weakness and paresis. I continued to keep the cart with us on walks even when Pix seemed able to do the entire walk on her own feet. It was my insurance in case she "ran out of gas". She was able to enjoy her walks in safety until January of 2009, when she suddenly developed heart problems, most likely the end result of progressive deterioration begun by her MRSA infection. Although the cardiologists at the VMTH were initially optimistic about being able to stabilize her heart and maintain her quality of life, her heart was more seriously damaged than we knew. She died of acute heart failure in the ICU while getting the best care available anywhere on earth.

my precious Chris in the cart about to leave for a walk with my other dogs
Chris about to go for a ride, while my other dogs go for a walk.


Later in the year, my precious little Chris was facing a heart problem of his own. In his case it was a rare kind of tumor growing at the base of his heart. So it seemed like a good idea to get him used to using the jogger cart before the time arrived when he really needed it. Unlike Pixel he did not consider the cart to be a priviledge. He seemed to feel more secure with his feet on the ground and did not want to ride in the cart. So I began bribing him. I fed him little bits of favored treats while he rode. That worked to keep him in the cart for part of our walk. At least I knew I would have the cart available when and if it was genuinely needed. He'd ride for a bit at the start of the walk and maybe again late in the walk. Chris managed to stay mobile until his heart tumor grew large enough to interfere with heart pumping and caused fluids to back up into his chest and belly. For a while we were able to drain the fluids off and keep him comfortable, but the intervals got shorter and shorter until it was no longer possible to insure his comfort.



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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 8/20/08 revised 9/27/09
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