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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Changing the lives of animals

The Saigon Times

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Exploring the world by running around the house is a common sight for cats and dogs. However, for our furry friends facing mobility issues, life takes on a profound challenge. Speaking to The Saigon Times, Oscar Fernando Ruiz Bonilla, founder of Forever WheelChair, shares his journey to manufacture mobility solutions for disabled and pet animals in the most heartwarming way possible.

The Saigon Times: What inspired you to start creating wheelchairs for disabled animals?
Oscar Fernando Ruiz Bonilla: While living in my country, my passion for animals, particularly dogs and cats, grew immensely, leading me to an important decision in my life then. After working in various fields, I realized my true happiness with helping animals, specifically those often overlooked due to disabilities. My journey began with adopting a disabled dog and crafting custom wheelchairs to enhance his life. As I extended my support to other animals with diverse disabilities, I recognized the need for tailored solutions. This realization gave birth to Forever Wheelchair, a potential business venture driven by a genuine desire to assist those seeking help for their beloved pets.

Were there stories that motivated you to focus on dogs and cats who suffer neglect and abuse?
Many stories have deeply impacted me, some bringing tears to my eyes, while others ignited my anger. Yet, amidst these narratives, there were tales that restored my faith in humanity. One such poignant story revolves around my adopted dog, Ca Chim, whose front limbs were tragically amputated by his previous owner. His heart-wrenching journey left me emotionally disarmed, prompting me to adopt him and care for him as if he were my own child. Additionally, I encountered an elderly woman living in challenging conditions without electricity or clean water. Despite her hardships, she displayed unwavering compassion by rescuing and tending a disabled little dog each day. Her resilience is truly admirable and serves as a source of hope for me regarding the goodness in humanity.

Oscar Fernando Ruiz Bonilla and his adopted dog, Ca Chim, joyfully on the wheelchair – PHOTO: COUTERSY OF FOREVER WHEELCHAIR

How do you approach the design process when creating animal wheelchairs?
My design process is an ever-evolving journey rooted in pure love. It originated from a heartfelt desire to genuinely improve the lives of animals, ensuring they could move with ease and without pain or discomfort. My designs prioritize freedom of movement, comfort, and stability. Carefully considering each of these elements, I began crafting 3D designs. The products undergo rigorous testing in challenging terrains, with the involvement of the most active dogs and cats in need of a durable and dependable mobility solution. If the designs prove effective for the dogs and cats I hold dear, I am confident they will provide invaluable support to other families’ beloved pets as well.

Can you give us some information on the costs involved in creating a wheelchair for a cat or dog?
Making a good quality chair depends on the size and weight of the animal. The heavier and larger the animal, the more materials. Also between smaller and younger, custom products must be designed with special materials and exclusive production by hand. So a good chair from our company could cost between US$70 and US$300. We have exported wheelchairs for dogs weighing 80 kilograms to the U.S. and Europe.

Are there specific features you use to accommodate different sizes, breeds, or types of mobility challenges?
We have crafted versatile products, available in six different sizes and three disability classes, addressing various challenges like total or partial hind limb disabilities, forelimb disabilities, limited functionality, total disability (all four limbs), and motor disabilities due to illness or loss of balance. Our range also includes exclusive solutions for cats and tailored custom products for newborn animals or special cases, such as birds, guinea pigs, and other smaller species.

Oscar Fernando Ruiz Bonilla consults with a veterinarian as they analyze the X-ray photo to discuss the condition of rescued animals – PHOTO: THE KY

What materials do you find most effective in creating durable and comfortable animal wheelchairs?
Aluminum and environmentally friendly plastics like those we use in our 3D printers.

How does the availability of wheelchairs in the market affect the adoption or care of animals with disabilities?
It is a barrier that we always want to break. Individuals scouring the internet for high-quality wheelchair prices for their dogs or cats often encounter a sense of hopelessness. For this reason, we manage our resources in a way that we can always give a chair to those who cannot buy one. By uniting efforts between Forever Wheelchair and these families, we strive to ensure that every little animal finds a forever home. For those dogs not fortunate enough to have a home due to abandonment resulting from disability, we welcome them into our shelter, equip them with a wheelchair, and care for them until a suitable home is found. Upon adopting a disabled dog from our shelter, we pledge to provide a new chair or offer maintenance at no cost. If the adopting family is financially stable and chooses to pay for our products in the future, the funds contribute to the long-term sustainability of our mission.

How do you view the role of adopting a disabled animal as an opportunity for personal growth and learning?
Bringing home a disabled animal as a parent offers invaluable and enduring lessons in nurturing kind, compassionate, responsible, and resilient individuals. A child who grows up caring for, cleaning, and feeding a disabled pet is likely to extend that same care to their aging parents. These children, having been trained in patience and love, will grow into good human beings who never abandon their family members in hospitals for the elderly. Their upbringing instills a sense of commitment and compassion, shaping them into individuals who provide dedicated care when it is needed most.

What do you think of Forever Wheelchair’s contribution to the general well-being and quality of life of the animals that use them?
What motivates me as the founder is my genuine love for what I do. Seeing the well-being our chairs bring to these animals, both in our shelter and in countless homes, fills me with a sense of accomplishment. As I sleep, I find peace and happiness, knowing that I’ve made a positive contribution to someone’s happiness, even if it’s just a small part of their journey.

How can people or organizations contribute to your efforts to support animals with disabilities?
There are several ways to contribute to our cause. Firstly, show unconditional love to your pets by committing to supporting them in both good times and bad. Never abandon them, especially when they’re facing difficulties, as this is a true test of compassion. Secondly, refrain from purchasing animals from illegal breeders who often discard malformed puppies and kittens like trash. Opt for adopting a puppy or kitten from a shelter, providing a mixed breed the chance for a loving home while alleviating the financial burden on shelters tirelessly caring for abandoned dogs. Lastly, support Forever Wheelchair by sharing our content on your social networks or reaching out to us via @foreverwheelchair on both Facebook and Instagram. Whether it’s spreading educational videos or sharing the stories we highlight, your contribution gradually helps shift societal perspectives on animals with disabilities.

Reported by The Ky

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