For the past three months I’ve had an extra dog. She’s a Lakeland Terrier and belongs to my good friend and neighbour who, unfortunately, has been in hospital all this time. I have two dogs of my own, a husky and a lurcher, but the terrier’s been a part time member of my pack for the last six years so she fits in well. At times, three dogs is a bit too much. Walking three dogs with a wheelchair is fine all the time you’re on a smooth wide path and the dogs keep to formation, but when there’s curbs to negotiate and the pavements get narrow, three dogs on leads are in danger of being wrapped around the wheels. Getting through the door to the pub is tricky enough with two dogs, but with three you tend to get a bit tangled. Once in the pub there is only limited room for the dogs to lie down and so three’s quite a crowd. At other times, one extra dog makes no difference at all. On home turf she just fits into the routine and when running them with my handcycle it matters little how many dogs you have clipped on the back.
The bonus of looking after this dog is that she comes with a mobility scooter. Not just any mobility scooter either, but a ‘Tramper’, the model favoured by disabled ramblers for its off road capabilities. I’ve never really considered myself a mobility scooter type of person. Firstly they’re expensive, especially ones as good as a Tramper. Secondly, it has always seemed a bit of a cop out when I’m capable of getting around under my own steam and thirdly there’s vanity. Not sure if a mobility scooter fits with my image. My wheelchair’s pretty sporty, handcycling with dogs is pretty cool and if I need motorised transport then I jump on the farm quad bike. Just lately, though, I’ve brushed the vanity aside and am discovering another dimension to dog walking and a new sense of freedom.
The timing’s been good. Changes in my body due to the therapy work has meant that I’ve had to ease off with the handcycling. As my body opens up still further, a weakness that has been locked up for years has become exposed and this one is proving more troublesome than most. My bum and the back of my leg used to merge into one homogeneous zone, but now there is a clear division at the bottom of my bum and a clear division at the top of the leg. This is fantastic, except there is a hole in the structure between the two where the true bottom to my pelvis should be. We’re working on it and are already beginning to strengthen and build structure into the bottom of the pelvis, but it will take some time. As soon as we started to work on this area and gained the beginning of strength, I then became truly aware of the weakness whereas before it simply didn’t exist in my body map consciousness. Once I had the faint beginnings of strength, I also became aware of activities that placed strain on this newly exposed weakness, and so to be avoided, one of which is handcycling.
Handcycling is the most fantastic way of travelling with dogs, especially with a husky working alongside in harness, and is also a fairly good way of exercising as a paraplegic. When you live with a body with enormous intrinsic weakness, weakness that goes to the very core, good exercise, through conscious effort, is hard to achieve. If you’re not careful then muscular exertion, without good foundation, can further imbalance you’re body. Handcycling, without too many hills and with a husky to help, is one of the best forms of fresh air and exercise I’ve found, but unfortunately even that has been a little too much lately. Cycling with your arms in a nice reclined seat employs tension throughout the body which normally feels great, but not when it’s straining such a weakness opened up in the body. I’ll get back into it with renewed vigour once we’ve got my pelvic floor strengthened but for now I’m discovering new possibilities for adventure, with a Tramper.
Mobility scooters are just as good for running dogs as a handcycle. It doesn’t work your husky as hard, but there are advantages. Leads, if attached in the right place, don’t get tangled and allow the dogs to run alongside, when there’s room, and fall into formation behind when the paths get narrow. And narrow paths you can do. With the handcycle I stick to the farm lanes and bridle paths, but with the Tramper I can explore narrow winding paths through the woods. All of a sudden this has opened up Copthorne Common to me that previously I’ve never really entered into. It’s not as exhilarating as the handcycle, but leads to a calmer energy in the dogs, which is especially good for the terrier who needs help to overcome an anxiety issue.
The jury’s still out on whether it’s good for my ‘street cred’, but for now I’ll carry on enjoying the novelty of a top of the range, all terrain, mobility scooter.