Nick Parkes of K-9 Cart Company East helps disabled animals stay on the move
Doris Day could have been speaking for K-9 Cart Company East clients when she said, “I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”
Knowing that dogs are family members guides a decision to do what you can to make sure they are happy, whatever hand life may deal them. Dr. Lincoln (Nick) Parkes, founder of K-9 Cart Company East in Oxford works with that type of client.
“The pet owners I work with are the kind of people who have their dog as a member of the family, and they will spend money on their dogs before themselves,” Parkes said. “I really love helping both the pets and the people. The first cart I ever made, I wasn’t asked; I was told, ‘Dr. Parkes, we aren’t going to put our dog down, so do something.’”
That was in the 1960s, when he patented a cart that helped disabled animals to walk. K-9 Carts are the original patented dog wheelchairs; Parkes used the term “cart” instead of “wheelchair,” because it looked to him like a cart pulled by work animals. He ran the business on the side while he worked as a veterinary surgeon with a sub-specialty in back surgery. He retired in 1991 and found Oxford from his love of boats. He has run a number of different cart companies, opening K-9 Cart Company East in 2004. He’s made more than 100,000 carts over the years.
These days, Parkes, who is 90, focuses more on the quality of the carts he makes than on the marketing of them. Even so, he has recently been featured in The Washington Post and in a story on CBS. At his Oxford shop, he shows design improvements he has made over the years and the new design he has in mind next. But he’s just as quick to talk about what happens when a pet gets fit with one of his carts.
“The dogs become different animals when you give them their freedom,” Parkes said. “The way they tear out of the shop when they realize they can move again.”
He is still blown away by a boxer he fit with a cart who would play Frisbee, leaping in the air, cart and all, to catch the Frisbee and bring it back. Testimonials from K-9 Cart’s clients are full of stories of dogs and owners with a new lease on life due to mobility — including those who had no luck with other carts, but who Parkes was able to help. In one case, a Corgi refused to use a cart from another company:
“I went to Dr. Parkes and he kindly spent the day re-designing and fixing the unusable wheelchair. The dog is now able to walk and run again.”
At a time in his life when Parkes could consider retiring and spending more time on the water, he is not done improving his carts and helping more pets. He doesn’t like what he sees in some of the cheaply made carts on the market and has a design he feels could build on his life’s work of improving quality of life for pets and their families.
“I’m a designer at heart. I’d spend more time designing if I could, and I just really enjoy helping these kind families and seeing dogs feel like kids again,” Parkes said.