"Pawdicapped," disabled, mobility challenged; whatever term you apply to a person or pet lacking the normal ability to physically ambulate doesn't really matter. More important is the practice of respect applied to these special individuals and the recognition of the lessons they teach in leading by example.
I am always struck by the amazing perseverance and ingenuity that pet owners display in caring for their dogs or cats, and in encouraging their pets’ unique methods of navigating our mutual environment. As my veterinary clinical practice focuses on hospice care and pain management, I frequently treat patients who need assistance with a sling, harness or wheel based apparatus.
Despite my familiarity with mobility compromised pets, I was stunned by the sight of a very good natured dog making her way down a Los Angeles sidewalk on a unique pair of front limb supporting wheels. Upon seeing Binky roll up to meet my pooch (Cardiff) and interact with him just as "normal" dog would (as though she had all four of her limbs), I felt compelled to meet her and share her remarkable story with pet lovers worldwide.
Binky is a six-year-old, mixed breed, spayed female Chihuahua who was rescued from a south central Los Angeles animal shelter. Born with incompletely formed right and left front limbs, Binky has dysmelia. Although Binky lacks normal anatomy, her shoulder blades help her to scoot around when she’s not in wheel-enhanced mode. Additionally, her shoulders move as though her entire front limbs are intact and touching the ground when she walks. In her wheels, Binky gracefully propels herself forward using her hind limbs.
Binky got her first set of wheels at three and a half years of age and took just a few weeks to adjust. Like a bicycle, Binky’s wheels are used for urban trekking on sidewalks, streets, and hiking trails. At home, she goes au naturale or wears her "tube top" (a shirt sleeve with holes cut out for her shoulders).
Bathroom habits occur exclusively wheel-free, as Binky gets herself out of her wheels and then postures to urinate and defecate. Binky’s owner then helps her to re-situate herself back in the wheels to move onto their next destination.
Binky is currently on her fourth generation of wheels, which her owner’s husband developed. The latest model is a high tech carbon fiber frame with a swivel function that permits ease of maneuverability. Sheep skin and yoga mats provide cushioning to reduce skin abrasions and pressure sores on her undercarriage.
Binky is quite the YouTube sensation, as her adventures in life are well documented. Additionally, Cesar Milan featured Binky on The Dog Whisperer and facilitated her adjustment to an earlier model of wheels.
Binky’s owner, Sylvie Forrest, doesn’t feel that Binky is handicapped or disabled, but instead is just "very special." Despite Binky’s physical limitations, she’s quite the world traveler. Italy is one of her preferred places for relaxation, but for the cobblestone streets, which cause an additional challenge for her wheels to roll smoothly.
Italy provides a healing environment far from the stresses of Los Angeles for both Forrest and Binky. Their recent trip was part of Forrest’s recovery process from breast and brain cancer. Forrest’s insightful blog, WTFCancer, is an inspiring literary and visual smorgasbord providing inspiration for those seeking health advice or for those who wish to take a peek at Binky’s duties as Forrest’s emotional support pooch.
I see Binky as an excellent role model for people and pets all over the world. Despite her anatomic challenges, Binky navigates life with a positive attitude and keeps on moving with enthusiasm. Additionally, Binky teaches pet owners of the mobility enhancing options available to assist dogs having lost limbs or their use. Both Binky and Forrest's stories of overcoming adversity provide valuable perspective capable of motivating others to make the most of one’s circumstances in life.
Dr. Patrick Mahaney
Images: Binky the handi-able dog