My dog, Daugherty, a dachshund, lost the use of his hind end in Aug/Sept of 2014. Almost immediately, we started going to a holistic veterinarian. Daugherty was one of, if not the, worst case she had ever seen. But, we started TCM and acupuncture. Until mid October, I had to help him defecate. And, until mid November, I had to help him urinate. His vet and I were having quality of life conversations.
Then, that November (2015) he stood one his hind legs for the first time!! Not for very long, and he was very wobbly, but he stood! He improved slowly until the winter cold finally came in (Feb/Mar) so we took about 6wks off. In April of 2015, we started back up again. By May/June, he was walking on all fours, wobbly, more and more of the time. We said our goodbyes to his new love (Daugherty had the BIGGEST crush on her!) in Sep/Oct of 2015.
He has continued to improve, and I noticed how he really wanted to climb the 3 steps from the den to the rest of the house instead of his ramp. And Daugherty tried to use the doggy steps I have always had leading up to the couch (which his brother, Duke, another dachshund, still refuses to use.) So, in Dec. 2015, I decided to build a step-ramp for him. The steps had to be deeper than normal steps, and the rise had to be much shorter. Hence, the step-ramp was born!
Step 1: Getting the Pieces Together
There is a lot of pallet wood involved with this! The slats on the pallets, after sending them through the planer, are the top part of the steps themselves. And you need a LOT of them! At 15" wide, and approx. 3 of those slats to a step, to make the full length along the bed, I needed 24! Since they average 3 1/2" wide, that makes the steps about 10 1/2" deep.
Use the table saw to cut the 2x4's from the pallet into 1x2 slats, unless you have 1x2's laying around.
The sides are the longest slats from the pallets you have.
Step 2: Assembling the Steps
Lay 3 of the 15" slats lengthwise together. Use their combined depth to measure the length you need for the 1x2, cutting 2 for each step.
Use wood glue on the thin edge of each slat. Then, use wood glue to attach the 1x2's to the edge of each step. Use the pinner to secure.
Flip the step over and then screw each slat board into the 1x2 - afterall, you don't want a board to come loose while your dog is walking up this step ramp!
(This is the same method I used to make the shelves in the ladder shelves I made, and will get around to making an Instructable for.)
Step 3: The Assembled Steps
Once the steps are assembled, do any finish sanding you need to do. Sand the underneaths, too. I also have cats, and they seem to think that things like this are the best places from which to wage a play attack from. And, I don't want them to get injured from splinters or anything else that might happen from unsanded pallet wood.
On this first step-ramp, I also primed and painted the wood.
Step 4: The Sides
This is the part I hate : angles! As you can see from the first picture, I have straight (to mimic the level floor) and the 2x4'x that start and end each part of the ramp. Doing it this way made it a bit easier to figure out the angle for the sides.
I apologize for the lack of pictures for this next part. (I need an assistant at times to take pictures while my hands are full, working!)
Then, I took each step and held it in place while I traced it. Each step is 3" higher from the next. By tracing where each step would be, I was able to drill pilot holes, so I would know where each step would be attached at while I was fumbling with the placement of each step.
The front edge of each step is directly above the back edge of the step below it.
I did use screws again, to attach each step to the sides, since it was much easier than trying to nail them!
Do one side first. Then flip over, angle the side board, and screw the side to the steps. The second side goes much quicker than the first!
Once the actual step-ramp is assembled, then attach the 2x4's to the top and bottom of each section. Again, using screws.
Step 5: Finished!
The first step-ramp is in two sections. First, to make it easier to move. Second, because the first section is (intentionally) the height of the couch, and I knew the Daugherty would need time to acclimate to the step-ramp. There were some other tweeks I made to the first (black) step-ramp, which included adding slats to eliminate the gap between steps (Daugherty's hind legs kept slipping into them, which made him not want to use the ramp) and finally adding a carpet runner over the entire length. I stapled it to the steps to hold it in place. The carpet gave him footing he need to feel safe going up the step-ramp.
After about 3 or 4 months of him not using except when bribed with food, Daugherty finally decided he wanted to curl up with Mommy and started using it on his own volition : No food bribery!!
Once he started doing this regularly, I knew it was time to take the first section back to the bedroom (he still hasn't started using that, though. But, he keeps teaching me patience. I guess this is another lesson in it!) And build one specifically for the couch in the den. (The natural wood one)
As you can see, I made a few changes to the design (all those pallet side tables have taught me a bit about stability without cross bars!)The 2x4's at the back end are supporting the back end of the final step. And the sides are shorter - easier for Daugherty to go from the ramp to the couch. Also, the gap between steps is already closed with a slat. And the first step can move from parallel to the floor to angled to the floor. He likes the angled to the floor better - less struggle to start the climb. Two things I have done since are to add a carpet runner to the beginning steps and the take a 2x4 and affixing it to the front edge of the bottom step, about 1" under the step and 2 1/2" protruding in front of the step. The angle is a bit better to Daugherty to start and the extra 2 1/2" gives his hind legs more to grip on as he goes to the second step.