High school student designs wheelchair for puppy
BREVARD, N.C. — A Brevard High School student’s pet project reminds us that compassion and a little ingenuity go a long way. Thanks to her caring and creativity, you might say a precious little dog is on a roll.
Our Person of the Week, Courtney Meyer, teaches all of us that important lesson after designing a wheelchair for a special needs puppy named Monkey, who has very little movement in her hind legs.
When animal science teacher Sarah Rhymer brought the pup to school, Meyer, a senior, took a keen interest.
“I have a real passion for animals, so when Miss Rhymer first showed me the dog and let me see her walk, I was so heartbroken,” Meyer said.
The initial heartbreak led to a breakthrough.
“OK, ready to go?” Rhymer said, strapping the wheelchair to the pooch.
“I know you’re so sleepy, come here!” Meyer said to Monkey. “There she goes!”
“I got to see her run for the first time down the hallway,” Meyer, a drafting student, said. “She hasn’t been able to run, and I was just overwhelmed with joy being able to see her face light up.”
Monkey’s a different doggy with the new set of wheels. She sort of took Meyer’s idea and ran with it.
Two months ago, Rhymer gave the pup a foster home through a rescue group called Labor of Love. While the rest of the siblings have been adopted, Monkey will soon need a special home.
“And she was actually the runt of the litter,” Rhymer explained. “She kind of developed this neurological disorder. We took her to the vet, we didn’t really know what was going on. Started losing a lot of mobility in her hind end.”
“So, I have each of my pieces 3-D modeled on here,” Meyer said at her computer, making the process seem ridiculously easy. “This whole design I was able to do in one class period, so maybe an hour and a half.”
After she graduates from high school, Meyer hopes to pursue a career in computer engineering at N.C. State.
The wheelchair has lightweight flex pipe and black joints printed out on the school’s 3-D printer, as well as a re-purposed tourniquet to secure the dog.
“It is able to be Velcro around her and it pulls this in to be closer to her body,” Meyer said. “So, these straps right back here kind of hold up her weight when she wants to flop over. So when she tries to put weight on this leg, it catches her so she ends up putting weight on these wheels.”
Monkey’s adjusted remarkably well, with a little trial and error.
“She’s gotta figure out how to pull herself,” Rhymer said, as the dog got stuck in some grass. “You wanna come over here? There you go, good job!”
“She says, ‘I’m a fast learner!'” Meyer said, watching the dog run like the wind.
“One of the coolest things I’ve been able to teach my students is every life matters,” Rhymer said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog on the side of the road or, for example, Monkey, a special needs puppy.”
Along the way, the little puppy that could has opened eyes, minds, and hearts.
“You don’t need a degree to help animals,” Meyer concluded. “You don’t need a vet degree or engineering degree to do something as simple as this.”