Friday, October 25, 2013

Dog Wheelchairs in a Changing World

Pet rescuer Xiaoli pictured in China along with
Walkin' Wheels rescue dog WangWang
and Mark C. Robinson, President of
HandicappedPets.com
As I write this, I am flying on Air India from Osaka, Japan to Hong Kong. They just served lunch. The smell of curry is in the air, the woman beside me brought her own chopsticks, a flight attendant is wearing a hijab, and the Japanese businessman across the aisle just handed me his business card with two hands as he bowed in his seat. It's as if someone put the world's cultures into a dice cup, shook them up, and rolled them down my airplane's aisle.

My name is Mark C. Robinson. I'm the inventor of the Walkin' Wheels dog wheelchair. My mission for this trip is to support my friends in Asia who are trying to help elderly, disabled, and handicapped dogs live happy, healthy lives.

My trip, starting in China, has been filled with wide-eyed amazement as I handed people my business card with the picture of a dog in a wheelchair. Usually, the conversation begins with me trying to tell them what I do in Chinese. "Go Luan Ee" with the proper singsong tones means Dog wheelchair but it sounds like nonsense to them so they assume, rightfully, that it's my fledgling Chinese and I'm trying to say something completely different. As we talk further and I show them my business card they get the idea. It doesn't take long for them to realize that it is an idea with possibilities.

My meeting in Beijing with the "Together for Animals in China" - a group that advocates "Dogs are Friends, not Food" was the most productive. One of the members cares for a dog in a wheelchair, Wang Wang, who elicits stares, laughs, compassion, and curiosity whenever she scoots around in her wheels. This group, with strong connections throughout the animal shelter and hospital community in China is getting the word out with pamphlets, brochures, and websites.

"There are a few people in China who make dog wheelchairs, but they are poorly made. Because they are not flexible and adjustable. They only fit one dog and cannot be reused again and again like the Walkin' Wheels. The Chinese people care about this kind of efficiency and utility. They are excited to have a source for quality products."

As China's wealth is increasing, people with more disposable income are able to afford to own and care for a dog. When their dog can no longer walk due to age, illness, or injury their families are faced with the decision to end the dog's life or use a wheelchair. They make the same decision that you or I would make -- if they know that a dog wheelchair exists. China's middle class, a strong and growing element of Chinese society, is taking notice.

Another stop along the way was in Hong Kong, where GTO Limited - an international trading company has begun successfully distributing the product in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is already filled with dog lovers. Demand is increasing here as people learn about the product. GTO works through veterinarians, trade shows, articles in the news, advertisements, and their popular website. It won't be long before seeing a dog in a wheelchair on the street or in the park will be a common occurrence in Kowloon.

A darker note came during a Skype call with my distributor in Iran. Many years ago, before the embargo, we sold a few dog wheelchairs there. Unfortunately, the religious leaders have passed a law that if a dog is seen on the street, it should be shot and the owner arrested. This is in part, from what I understand, because owning dogs is a "western affectation" that they don't want spreading in their country. Also, a dog is considered dirty or "taboo" in their religion. It is possible that we may begin selling again if the embargo lifts. This underground connection between the dog lovers in Iran and the rest of the world is a connection we need to foster.

My stop in Japan was a wonderful treat. People in Japan know a lot about dog wheelchairs and the distributor there, handicapped-dogs.jp is highly successful. They love their dogs and are quick to provide the care and equipment they need. The owner of the company, Marty, and I toured Kyoto handing out business cards and speaking about the products. People's faces lit up in delight as they saw the photos.

I was not able to visit them all. Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Israel, and Australia will have to wait until the next trip. But as more and more people around the world are introduced to the possibility that they can support their best friends when they can no longer walk, the magic of Walkin' Wheels spreads. It is easy to see the love and kindness this idea inspires.

Another quick stop in Hong Kong and it's back home to Amherst, New Hampshire where the great people at HandicappedPets.com have been helping people around the world get the products, services, and support they need to help dogs live long, happy, healthy lives.

HandicappedPets.com products are available online and we ship around the world.  We also have a full listing our international distributors available here.

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