When his girlfriend’s dog suddenly lost use of his back legs, James Paniagua decided to take matters into his own hands to make the pup more comfortable until the family could decide how to proceed with surgery. He built the dog a wheelchair using only $40 in materials.
“They’ve had him since he was a baby,” Paniagua, of Barstow, California, told ABC News of the 4-year-old Pomeranian mix named Benny. “He woke up about a week ago not being able to move his hind legs. It was just freakishly strange to us because he’s never had problems with that type of thing or been admitted to the hospital.”
As soon as Paniagua and his girlfriend, Briana Ibarra, took the dog to the hospital, they were told that an MRI alone could cost a minimum of $1,500 and that if the dog ultimately needed surgery, that could total anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000.
“I was like, ‘Wow that’s expensive,’” Paniagua, 22, recalled. “The family was trying to process everything. They’re still figuring out what they’re going to do.”
That’s when Paniagua started researching doggy wheelchairs online, only to find out those were quite expensive, as well.
“It’s not so easy to just buy. It’s more a special order thing and there’s always the possibility of it not fitting the dog,” he explained. “I saw some pictures online and thought, ‘I could do this.’ So I decided to try it out.”
Paniagua headed to the hardware store to buy PVC pipes, cement, a few nuts and bolts and, of course, the wheels, which proved to be the most difficult step in the building process.
“At first I tried using lawn mower wheels but they were too big and bulky,” he said. “I could’ve ordered them on the Internet but I didn’t want to wait, so I went to find a scooter for $20 and took the wheels apart.”
One afternoon later, Benny was cruising in style.
“This was something I wanted to do [and] for now so he’s comfortable,” said Paniagua. “It’s a temporary fix until we can we get his surgery done and then he’ll be rocking and rolling again.”
Benny’s doctors aren’t exactly sure what caused the sudden loss of usage in his hind legs, but Paniagua said they suspect it’s a problem with a disc in his back.
“The doctor said this can happen a lot in smaller dogs,” he explained. “The priority is trying to get him help. That’s something we’re actively looking for but it’s not that easy to do, especially with something this spontaneous.”