07 Belly Sling

Now for the part of the project that is definitely outside my area of competency! To complete this step, it helps a great deal if you have a significant other who is a wizard on a sewing machine. My wife is a dressmaker, so I lucked out there! Actually, being something of a control freak, I'm not too proud to say I asked her to show me how to do some of it.

I had intended to get some material similar to that used for backpacks; some kind of strong thick nylon. While self-consciously perusing a local fabric store, I realized that the leg of an old pair of jeans would not only do, it was probably even better than nylon. Denim would have some 'give' in it, which would surely be more comfortable for Kayla.

An old pair of jeans sacrificed for the belly sling

A few important points about the belly sling. I'm very aware that having a dog place some of its weight on its soft underbelly for lengthy periods can't be a good thing. Personally, I don't even like laying on my belly. But, there are some mitigating factors here for Kayla:
  • She is still able to walk, so we'll only use the wheelchair for longer hikes, and probably only for the latter part of those when she tires.
  • I want her to still take some of her weight on her good leg while using the wheels, if we can possibly get her used to that, since I don't want her to stop exercising her good leg completely. I want the cart to take enough weight to stop her hopping heavily and aggravating her spinal complaint.
  • With one leg completely missing and the subsequent muscle wastage around her hip on that side, her back end is very light.
So what about your dog? Every dog should be evaluated according to its own situation. Is it a small, light dog or a big heavy dog? Does it have the use of one leg? Do you intend for the wheelchair to be used a lot, and for extended periods?

Don't despair if you decide the belly sling solution isn't for you. There are other options. For example, we have a body sling (click here to see a similar one) for Kayla, that I use for helping her climb stairs. It has a handle on the back so I can lift her like a suitcase, though in fact I just take enough of her weight so she can navigate the stairs herself. It would be a simple matter to have this attach to the frame instead of the belly sling, and in fact I may do that if Kayla becomes sufficiently accustomed to the cart to want to use it more. The point is - do what's best for your dog.

Anyway, back to the belly sling. Cut the leg off an old pair of jeans, and trim the length so it is approximately three times the span of the frame. Wide velcro strips will be used for securing the sling, so there needs to be plenty of overlap. Also, being generous with the length means the sling 'sag' can be adjusted to fine tune its height, and perhaps to be a little more comfy too.

Attaching velcro to form the sling loop

I stitched all around the edges of the denim, and in a line all the way up the middle, to add some strength and to make the two layers of material act as one. Next came the velcro. I bought the 3M version of velcro because they came in packs of two inch by three inch adhesive-backed patches. The adhesive was enough to hold the patches on the denim while I figured out exactly what placement was needed, then my wife securely stitched them on. She had worried that the adhesive would gum up the needle, but the 3M patches didn't have lots of gummy glue, so it worked out fine.

The sling and harness in place

As you can see from the photo, the idea is to provide plenty of surface area for the velcro so it forms a very strong link, and also so the sling can be loosened to let it sag a bit if necessary.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much ...you have made this easy and inexpensive. My dog thanks you also

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, my dog thanks you also

Mark Tara said...

Thanks for sharing. I am building 1 tomorrow