At 91 Years Old, the WWII Vet Who Invented the Dog Wheelchair Is Still Busy Saving Lives
After 60 years in the business, Lincoln Parkes has made wheelchairs for every animal imaginable.
When Doctor Lincoln Parkes first started working as a veterinarian in the 50s and 60s, dogs and other animals that were unable to walk were almost always euthanized. It was a fact that Parkes, a WWII veteran who spent his entire life around animals, simply could not accept.
"Animals, because they can't walk, should not be put to sleep," Parkes told HeartThreads. "I felt there must be a way. And it became obvious—make something for them and try it!"
Now 91 years old, Parkes recalled how 60 years ago he took to the streets to gather an array of items, including wood planks and wheels from children's wagons and carriages. Though admittedly rudimentary, what he came up with was groundbreaking: the first dog wheelchair.
"I put something together and the dog ran out the door and I said, ‘Uh oh. I'm in trouble.' And that started the K-9 Cart Company back in 1961," said Parkes.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, K-9 Cart had no competitors, and his company sold thousands of wheelchairs every year to people all around the country. Though business was booming, Parkes continued to work as a veterinary surgeon. In a 2018 interview with The Washington Post, Parkes explained how he kept tweaking the design of the wheelchair in an effort to make it lighter, better balanced, and easier to adjust. Over the course of four decades, he was awarded three different patents for three different carts.
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In 1991, after performing more than 3,000 spine surgeries, Parkes retired and moved to scenic Oxford, Maryland, where he continues to craft wheelchairs for animals of all shapes and sizes—cats, birds, and hamsters included.
"Dogs, cats, snakes, anything. People fall in love with them. There's no replacement. They fill a chunk of life that no other being can," Parkes told HeartThreads. "[It became obvious] that there was a big need for supporting disabled animals."
As for the reason he's devoted his life to making wheelchairs for pets, Parkes says it's pretty simple: "Saving lives is a good feeling."