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A cart for Diana.

Our story began when my son Michael and I brought home a spotted Great Dane pup. We named him Rambo and as he grew my husband, Lee, remembered a story his father told of making dog harnesses out of cut-down horse harnesses. His father and his brother would hitch up the dog to pull them around. So, Lee thought, what a great way for our daughter Diana to have a little fun and freedom and for Rambo to earn his keep! Diana, five, has cerebral palsy, mental retardation, a seizure disorder,spastic quadriplegia and cortical blindness all due to difficulties at birth.

Lee began watching the horses pulling the carts at the fair park race track near our home and started drawing designs. My mother bought us a used wheelchair at a rummage sale for $20 and my husband had the beginning parts for the cart. After collecting more parts, Lee gathered them together--old wheelchair parts, an old baby buggy, used car seat tracks, old electrical conduit pipe--with his design. He took them to his father's welding shop and they assembled the test cart. We bought a dog harness from a dog supply catalog and we were off and trotting.

Rambo took to the cart better than we thought. Of course, a pocket full of treats didn't hurt. For the next three months, we trained every morning on the rural road where we live. I was still very leery about letting Diana ride in this contraption, but before long Rambo didn't even need a leash. Our 15-year-old son, Michael, was the test rider. (What are older brothers for?) Rambo handled the added weight and pulled like a pro.

For Diana's new and present cart, Lee wanted to make something more comfortable than a wheelchair seat--something that could be easily dismantled and loaded for transporting. Because he is an auto body shop manager, he thought of a down-sized bucket seat from an automobile. He cut a car seat down to Diana's size and had it reupholstered. Lee went back to his father's shop where they made a new frame out of tubular steel they bought at a warehouse. He painted the frame glossy black. We then took a trip to a golf pro shop for a bright yellow umbrella to shade Diana from the sun. Many late nights of working produced the new cart.

Soon after, we saw an ad for Roleez Wheels [R], a balloon-type tire that can go anywhere, which would be much better than the wheelchair wheels we were using. With these wheels Diana could go over grass and sand, and even through the woods, so we purchased them.

Diana loved the cart. Her wheelchair did not bounce like this! She could go almost anywhere with the help of her dog. For a little girl who will never walk, this is great! Diana laughs and laughs whe Rambo trots or goes over bumps. It is heartwarming for us to see Diana so happy in a world that has been filled with doctors, tests and surgery. This was surely a godsend. Needless to say, Lee and his cart won me over.

We signed up for the March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon. Roleez Wheel System, Inc. sponsored us and donated the wheels. We all finished the 12-mile walk. Rambo, who has grown to be such a devoted dog, will do anything as long as he can be near his family. He has even become a show dog. We entered Diana and Rambo in a contest for kids and their pets sponsored by a local pet store. We came home with four ribbons and an article in the local paper. We were filled with pride.

This past year Rambo was kicked out of a few parks and beaches, so we decided to get him certified as a service dog. We loaded up the van and went to Michigan. We were welcomed at Paws with a Cause[R] where they put Rambo through many tests. He passed them all, thanks to many hours of training. Rambo is now certified and has his very own backpack. Now we can take Diana and her dog to any park or beach without the hassle or disappointment of being asked to leave.

Oh, we still get a lot of stares, but let them. With a very special little girl and a wonderful dog, who wouldn't look?

Charlene Fickau lives in Elkhorn, Wis., with her husband, Lee, son, Michael, 15, daughter, Diana, 5, who has multiple disabilities, and Rambo, 2. Fickau is a nursing attendant at the Lakeland Nursing Home of Walworth County, Wis.
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Title Annotation:Annual Mobility Guide for Parents of Children and Adolescents
Author:Fickau, Charlene
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:Van lifts: a practical guide.
Next Article:A new beginning.

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