CHRIS Grinnell has been helping disabled animals since she was 3 years old.
That’s when she donated the wheels from her toy wagon to the wheelchair her father, Ed, was making for their dog, Buddha. The Doberman pinscher had lost the use of her back legs and could no longer walk.
Ed worked as a mechanical engineer, which means that he researched, designed and built tools and machines.
He figured out how to make a cart that supported Buddha’s back legs.
Even though she was very young, Chris remembers thinking that “it was pretty cool that my dog could still go on walks with me”.
Now, Chris is 28 years old, and she makes these carts, too.
In fact, as she grew, so did the family business, called Eddie’s Wheels for Pets.
Today, the company makes 2 000 carts a year for animals all over the world.
Like people, animals might lose the use of their legs or feet because of an accident or ageing. Others are born without legs or parts of limbs.
Ed’s carts are made from light aluminum, with special padding, and built according to the size and needs of each animal.
They allow the animal to sit, walk and move around again. Ed, Chris and their staff have created carts for all kinds of dogs, from pugs to English mastiffs, and for cats, goats and rabbits.
Buddha’s cart was the first one that Ed made, and he thought it would be his only one. But when Buddha’s veterinarian treated other disabled animals, she would suggest that the owners contact Ed.
Word spread, and soon Ed was receiving many requests from hopeful owners. Eddie and his wife, Leslie, began building the carts in their free time in the basement of their home in Massachusetts, in the US.
As a kid, Chris loved to help. She glued the padding and kept track of sewing supplies, said Leslie, who now handles sales and marketing for the company. Chris liked meeting the animals and helping with fittings, to make sure the new carts were comfortable.
Soon the company was receiving so many orders that it needed to move to a larger building.
All three Grinnells work there full time, along with a staff of 17.
Chris is a foreman, which means that she designs and builds carts, manages other workers and orders supplies. This requires skills in maths, business and engineering or design. You can take classes in these subjects in school and college, but Chris got most of her training on the job.
“My parents and co- workers taught me everything,” she said. She also learnt a lot from the eight disabled pets that she helped care for as a kid. Their dog Willa was born without front legs. Chris recalled “being blown away” by how much Willa could do in her cart. The dog would “run through the woods, lift her wheels over fallen branches and even wade in the river.”
“She could lead a normal dog life,” Chris said.
Eddie’s Wheels for Pets is looking for better ways to help animals like Willa. They research new materials and designs. Chris enjoys these challenges and new ideas. And she really likes another perk of her job: She can bring her little dog, Marilyn Fang, to work with her. – Washington Post
● Quattlebaum is a children’s author.
PERK: Chris can take her dog, Marilyn Fang, to work every day.
HELPING HAND: Chris Grinnell has been helping with the family business – making carts for disabled dogs – since she was a child. Chris’s father, a mechanical engineer, built a cart for the family dog 25 years ago, and other pet owners started seeking him out. The wheels help animals that can’t use their legs continue to get around.