Military dog gets new home, wheelchair
February 18, 2011
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The first thing you see when you walk into the home of Army Sgt. Jeffrey Souder and his wife, Jeanne, is the large, friendly German shepherd Irano who greets you.
Then you notice the area rugs -- everywhere.
“It’s so that Irano can move around the house more easily,” said Souder, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Okinawa Veterinary Treatment Facility who adopted Irano about a year ago.
Irano is an 11-year-old former military working dog who was released from his duties as a patrol and explosives dog after he was diagnosed with Degenerative Lumbo Sacral Stenosis by the veterinary staff.
Irano has lost nearly all the mobility in his hind legs and now uses his front legs as his only means of moving himself around, hence the rugs that cover the floors.
“It gives him more traction for his front legs so as to make his moving around easier in here,” said Souder, who is in charge of the health of the 48 military working dogs assigned on Okinawa.
Souder said the Air Force Kennel had been trying without success to find someone to adopt Irano.
“If I hadn’t taken him, he more than likely would have been put to sleep,” he said, rubbing Irano’s head affectionately. “They have put their time in, so they deserve a good retirement like everybody else.”
In order to give Irano more mobility, Souder built him a wheelchair of sorts. Searching online, he found a design to suit Irano’s needs.
“It took about 10 to 12 hours to build it,” he said, once he found two lightweight wheels.
The chair is comprised of the wheels, a PVC frame and a harness sewn by Jeanne that hangs in the middle to support Irano’s rear section and allows his legs to be mostly off the ground.
“The hardest part is putting on the harness,” said Souder, as Irano patiently allowed him to fit the harness to the rear of his body.
“He gets so excited to get outside,” said Souder after he snapped the harness into the frame of the wheelchair. “There is still some tweaking to do to it, like add some cushioning on the frame and to also lengthen it a little so that it sits more on top of Irano’s shoulders.”
Irano races as fast as he can to socialize with the neighbors’ dogs when the back gate is opened.
“Irano’s such a lover and loves being outside,” said Jeanne Souder, who watched as her husband walked alongside Irano in the backyard. “He always looks like he has a smile on his face and is so happy. When it starts getting dark outside, he’ll go and sit by the front door and wait for Daddy to come home from work.”
For information on adopting a military working dog, visit www.lackland.af.mil/units/341stmwd/index.asp or contact the Okinawa Veterinary Treatment Facility.