Monday, 9 April 2018

Senior Dog Love - DIY Emergency Dog Mobility Support Sling

This is not the most exciting or glamorous DIY post, but if it helps another dog owner at some point then it's totally worth it. As shared in our post cataract surgery summary, Oli's temporary vision loss meant that we needed a pet sling urgently.  We have steps at both entrances, so no matter what, potty time would require assistance and there was zero chance of finding one in our small city nor time for a special order. Oli is a big boy and lifting is no easy task. So I quickly made one with materials on hand while they were on the drive home from surgery.




With no time to buy a dog support sling, I looked for alternatives. A quick Google search brought up several DIY dog slings made from repurposed fabric shopping bags. We had a few around the house, but none of suitable size that I would trust with Oli's weight except for the DIY bags I had make for shopping...so why not make a purpose made fitted sling instead?  I was on it!  Helpful Humphrey was my Oli stand-in for measurement and sizing.  I decided to repurpose some old microfiber tea towels for the body (very strong, soft, and absorbent for any LBL drizzle), scrap fabric for sturdy handles, and used some fleece material to make a cover. The cover makes the end sling look tidy and durable (now in our emergency kit), but also ensures the edges are soft and low-pressure.


Making it was quick work.  Here's how the sling was put together:
  • Measure for fit. The right fit will depend on the dog and the situation.  In my case, It was needed for stair support, not flat ground or prolonged use. I wanted to give Oli as much support as I could with minimal pressure, so the sling was sized to go across his full underbelly and wrap halfway up his sides. 
  • Cut the covering fleece to the required size plus extra for folding-over the edges. I made the top/bottom fold over larger on my sling, but that was just for convenience.  Fleece doesn't fray, so the edges do not need to be finished, just secure.
  • Fold or cut the lining to the required size. My tea towels were almost perfect, just a little fold-over to tweak the size slightly. I used two layered together for extra strength and plushy softness in the sling.
  • Position the lining and fleece covering. 
  • Fold and sew the side (head and tail) seams securely. 
  • Fold and sew the top (handle) seams securely. For a tidy finish, I folded the side edges in and under on slight angle, as shown, before sewing the top into position in two steps for each fold-over, sewing from the center outwards (like quilting), to derisk bunching.
  • Sew a seam across the centerline in two steps, in two steps, sewing from the center outwards.

Sturdy ready-made strapping can be used for handles, but I made some with fabric left from my shopping bags. 
  • Cut long narrow rectangular strips of sturdy fabric for handle straps at the desired length (tailor to a comfortable height for you to hold/support the sling) plus extra to attach/join. For strength, the strips used were four times the desired strap width, and folded into quarter layers. 
  • Fold each handle strip along the mid-line into half and iron to crease. Fold each the sides in to the center of each strip and iron to crease. Sew a narrow seam along the open edge, ensuring that you capture the folded edge underneath.  Repeat at the same distance from the fold on the closed edge.
  • Pin the straps to create a hidden/finished joining seam at each free end, making a large loop of fabric. Position the straps on the outside (fleece cover side) of the sling, taking care to ensure that they are equally positioned, straight/square, not crossed/looped, and that the folded joining seam is neatly seated on the bottom. Pin to secure.  Tip: Double check positioning and length before you sew. 
  • Sew the handles to the sling following the existing stitch lines. Tip: Sew a crossed-box at the bottom of the straps (the joint) and at the tops just below edge to reinforce for added durability. 

Not the flashiest or most fun DIY (and I probably could have been a little neater with my sewing...) but it was quick/easy to make and worked perfectly to help support Oli's weight when assisting him in and out of the house over the changes in elevation for the door and steps at potty time. I used a handled harness for gentle in-house guidance, but it wasn't suitable for step support which was a two-handed (whew!) job and would also have been an uncomfortable pressure on Oli with his weight in a strappy harness.  It also washed great and is now on-hand in our pet emergency kit in case its ever needed in the future. Since I was assisting solo, there are no in-use pictures but I may have Oli do a blue steel pose or two and update the post with a demo pic at a future date. :)

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