Step 1: Design
I like to work in AutoCAD, which is a CAD program allowing me to draw everything to scale and easily make changes on the computer. CAD stands for Computer-Aided Design. I have my own licensed “light” version of AutoCAD.
Utilizing this program I am able to get a tracing of the dog into my drawing, and then build a cart to fit him. I of course allow for some adjustment because projects rarely fit perfectly without some fine-tuning.
My design utilizes square aluminum tubing and polycarbonate plastic plate for the main frame. I chose the larger diameter wheels because Nestle is a big dog and he also goes over terrain with bumps and obstacles sometimes. The larger diameter wheels roll over obstacles better and have some shock absorption with their pneumatic (air-filled) tires.
I use nylon webbing strap material to form a saddle, which is looped through slots in the cart’s side plates up top, and heavily padded with rubber tube covered with thick foam padding. I use buckles to allow for strap adjustment.
My new design has a cover over the padding to allow for washing and less slippage of padding on the straps.
The saddle is one of the most challenging parts of the cart for me. Like the seating system on a person’s wheelchair, it is the crucial part that comes into contact with the body and holds the dog in what should be an ideal position. As with human wheelchairs, incorrect positioning can lead to possible injury and worsening of the current condition. That’s the last thing one wants to do while trying to help a dog!
Sometimes an ill fitting cart or saddle will just be uncomfortable for the dog, resulting in disuse of the cart. I like to rely on the owner, along with my observation, as to whether the dog seems comfortable and natural in the cart. They can see the subtle signs and they know their dog better than I do.
After much cutting, drilling and running back and forth to Home Depot a few times, the cart was ready for Nestle to try it out!