Hiking with a Handicapped Dog
I have a five-year old beagle named Peanut. He is the runt of the litter, which are often not the healthiest dogs. I'm trying to figure out the best way to carry him on hikes.
At three years old, Peanut developed disc problems and partial paralysis. Degenerative disk disease is a common beagle problem. After spending $3000 on an MRI, the doctor said the dog had four degenerative discs and a Chiari malformation ( a defect where the spinal cord enters the skull). Surgery to correct these problems would have been 6 to 10 thousand dollars, but the doctor recommended against it. She recommended keeping the dog in a cage for six weeks to limit movement. Scar tissue might form and the dog might get better.
Well, Peanut is better. He can hike a couple of miles with no problem. Longer distances? I'm just not sure it's wise for him. However, that doesn't mean I can't carry him on the trail. He's 16 to 20 lbs and about six to eight inches tall.
So how would you transport the handicapped Peanut on the trail? I have carried him often in a day pack, but what about when I'm carrying a full pack? I really don't want him hanging out the top of a 60 liter pack. So here are the options I see right now.
1. Create an Aarn-style pack that could connect to the front shoulder supports of my pack. You could even use a day pack to make something.
2. Create a sling, kind of like a mini-hammock, that would drape over one shoulder. I used these slings for carrying all three of my kids when they were transportable infants (carry-able?).
In my opinion the sling would be much more comfortable for the dog. However, that puts added strain on one shoulder. I suppose you could switch shoulders during the hike, but that's a drag for me and the dog.