Wheelie good invention of Praa Sands Julia Hatch keeps dogs mobile
A PRAA Sands' woman has come up with a wheely good idea to help keep her four-legged friends mobile.
Julia Hatch, who owns Wheels4Dogs, is the country's only importer of a range of US-invented wheelchairs designed to save dogs from a life of misery if their legs stop working.
For Julia, a former civil servant, it all started when her beloved pet pooch Heidi was diagnosed with a degenerative condition, which would leave her disabled within 18 months.
Julia was determined not to let her German shepherd suffer in that way and set about finding a solution. After a couple of false starts and an unsuitable UK-made wheelchair, Julia chanced on Walkin' Wheels – an innovative system invented by American Mark Robinson.
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The dog-lover decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered one of the aluminium-framed adjustable contraptions that would help Heidi enjoy her final years.
The equipment was a quick success with Heidi and soon became a topic of conversation.
"We got well known around the village," said Julia. "There was no such thing as a normal dog walk. Everywhere we went people would stop and talk to me."
It was a chance conversation with inventor Mr Robinson that converted Julia from customer to businesswoman.
"I said 'it's a pity you have not got an outlet in the UK', and he asked if I would be interested," she said.
Julia jumped at the chance and opened the first Walkin' Wheels business in Europe about three years ago.
She imports the equipment from America and sells it all over Britain and in the EU to distraught dog-owners who want help for their pets whose legs are failing for any number of reasons.
She also stocks front leg attachments for the device, as well as splints and other equipment but always advises that owners consult their vets before making a purchase.
"With a dog, if they don't exercise it can cause all sorts of other problems," she said. "Many dogs get very depressed if they can't run around but once we get the a set of wheels, most dogs just take to them."
The wheelchairs can cater for all sizes of dogs from mini-dachshunds to Great Danes.
Heidi died a couple of years ago of cancer but was able to stay mobile because of the wheelchair.
It took Mrs Hatch a long while to get over the loss of her beloved dog but she has recently adopted a springer spaniel from the National Animal Welfare Trust, who is called Toffee and fortunately does not need a set of wheels.
As a dog-owner, Julia understands how people feel about their four-legged friends.
"I have had people in tears before," she said. "That is the reason I like to talk to people because I try to slow them down."
For more information, visit http://wheels4dogs.co.uk