March 30, 2020

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Opinion

Labour of love

Winnipeg business owner created dog wheelchair after fall left his best friend without the use of his hind legs

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/1/2011 (3345 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The combination of adversity, love and creativity can be the mother of invention. It was for local business owner John Danko.

Ten years ago his dog, Sullivan, fell off a cliff in Ontario. It left Sullivan without the use of his hind legs. Danko faced a decision pet owners dread — euthanize or find a way to provide the animal with some quality of life. His choice saved Sullivan and was the start of a new business.

When his dog, Sullivan, was injured, John Danko created a wheelchair for him.

When his dog, Sullivan, was injured, John Danko created a wheelchair for him.

Sullivan's injury inspired Danko to make a pet wheelchair, called the Ani-Mobile. With the aid of his father (and support of his mother, who is a veterinarian) they built a light, sturdy device. Danko even entered his product in a University of Manitoba competition and won prize money for his efforts. Ani-Mobility Inc. was founded in March of 2007.

Sullivan's injury was a permanent one. Some dogs, depending on the ailment, can have surgery to recreate mobility. Surgery, however, doesn't come cheaply, nor is it always the best course of treatment.

Not long ago, owners had little recourse with hind-quarter injuries or illnesses. Surgery was rarely done to assist pets. Faced with an altered lifestyle, owners often put their pets down.

It's interesting how far we've come. Our pets love us unconditionally, and when owners can, we try to reciprocate. There are myriad maladies that necessitate the use of a mobility device. As pets' caretakers, we naturally still consider their quality of life. Thankfully, animals are no longer discarded just because they don't fit the physical image of pet perfection.

This is not to say that we are blasé when pets are injured or ill. When we can, most owners do their best to allow our furry family members to live long and pain-free.

However, when we face life with disabled pets, humans often mourn the loss of mobility more than the pets do. We reminisce about the fun days at the park or the hours spent playing chase-the-ball. It pulls at our heart strings to see a pet struggle without leg use.

Dogs don't do this. Danko says, "dogs don't think about the stigma." They live in the present. "People can learn a couple of things about going on about their business," he adds.

When I interviewed Danko it was obvious how much he adored Sullivan. It must have been rewarding to have created a wheelchair that gave his dog back his mobility. Danko was inspired by his dog's spirit. He says Sullivan "was a really good dog, he ran around like it was nothing."

The young business owner is happy to help other owners, too. He's thrilled whenever he sees dogs walking with one of his chairs. His device helps canines walk and run through all terrains, including water and snow. "It turns on a dime," he says. One look at his YouTube videos shows how smoothly the Ani-Mobile seems to work.

Danko has turned his pet’s misfortune into a business, Ani-Mobility Inc., which creates custom wheelchairsfor dogs of all sizes.

Danko has turned his pet’s misfortune into a business, Ani-Mobility Inc., which creates custom wheelchairsfor dogs of all sizes.

While you may have heard of other options, there are unique advantages to his company. As a local business, Danko can work directly with Manitoba pet owners. To ensure proper fit, he and his father can measure your dog in person. They'll even perfect the fit by working with your dog's veterinarian.

Each wheelchair is hand-built with lightweight aluminum and the wheel size and shape vary according to your dogs' dimensions and needs. The price, which typically ranges from $350-$650, is dependent upon the size of your pet. On average, it takes one to two weeks to have your dog rigged up.

The photograph of Danko and Sullivan accompanying this column is obviously an old one. Danko didn't choose one with green grass because he's tired of the snow and wanted to cheer up readers up. Sullivan recently passed away from cancer.

As I tried to arrange a photographer to take a recent photo of a model dog to show the Ani-moblie product, I could tell Sullivan's passing was hard on Danko. Most entrepreneurs are concerned with how their products look in the media. Not Danko. He just wanted to highlight his dog. After all, Sullivan inspired him his venture. "To the last day, he wanted to go on the device," says Danko.

As he spoke about Ani-Mobile, it was his relationship with Sullivan that stood out. Danko's business began as a labour of love. It's clear it will remain one.

For further information, email jmsdanko@hotmail.com or call 793-9503.

 

char.adam@mts.net

twitter.com/ charspetpage

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