Ten years ago, Potomac resident Cathy Trauernicht’s beloved Labrador retriever sprained her legs jumping out of the family’s station wagon after a car ride. Aging pet owners and their aging canines are facing a dilemma: how can man travel with man’s best friend without enduring a doggie hip strain — or a human back injury?
“I said to my husband, ‘We need to build a ramp for that dog,’ and he built one from wood with carpeting on it … but it didn’t travel easily,” said Trauernicht.
Determined to find a solution that would ease physical stress for both canine and human, Trauernicht embarked on what would become a 10-year quest for the perfect doggie ramp. She sketched designs for a ramp made of plastic and consulted an engineer to help make it as ergonomic as possible. She checked out her competition in the dog ramp field and learned that most products on the market were cumbersome and difficult to train dogs on.
Eventually, Trauernicht and her engineer opted for a lightweight plastic called polypropylene that is strengthened with glass fibers. The plastic forms 18 links — held together with hinge pins made from extra strong polycarbonate — that can roll into an approximately 16-pound cylinder for easy portability. The product’s warranty is applicable for dogs up to 150 pounds.
“What makes it most unique is the roll-up and roll-out feature, and it comes with textured strips that give the dog added traction,” said Trauernicht. “[The dog ramp] comes with instructions on how to train the dog to use the ramp.”
The local inventor consulted an animal agility trainer for tips on writing the instruction manual, and she also let 10 local dogs try out the product.
“People have told me it’s great because they don’t have to lift their dogs into the car anymore,” said Trauernicht. “Even young dogs can benefit from a ramp. My dog’s best friend had two rear-leg surgeries because of tendons that were pulled. So it’s never too early to start training dogs on how to use a ramp to get in the car.”
LADY CHESAPEAKE, a.k.a. “Chessie,” is a 12-year-old, 80-pound golden retriever owned by Kathy Sheehan of Potomac. Chessie served as a canine tester for the ramp, and it took her less than 15 minutes to learn to use it.
“She adores the product,” said Sheehan. “She is moving a little bit slower these days, so it takes a great relief off her hindquarters using the ramp to get in and out of our station wagon and also up and the down stairs to the front and back door.”
Sheehan said that the dog ramp has also helped protect the humans of the family from strained muscles as well.
“In the past we’ve had to lift her hind legs, and at 80 pounds it’s been trying and puts a strain on our backs,” she said. “It’s been a great relief for everyone involved to have her get in the car by herself.”
Lyndsay Leggin’s dog Toby also tried out the dog ramp. Toby is an 85-pound golden retriever/yellow Labrador mix, and at 6 years old, he represented the younger canine population.
“He’s not an old dog and he doesn’t need it all the time, but he is developing something in his rear hip so it’s nice for that so when he comes down he doesn’t jar it,” she said. “The angle of [the ramp] makes it very easy to use … and the grooves in it make it comfortable for him to run up. It’s very easy for him to run up and down.”
AFTER DESIGNING a stylish carrying case and selecting a small manufacturer in Somerset, Wis., with the help of her engineer, Trauernicht secured a patent for her dog ramp and named it Ramp4Paws.
She has been busy spreading the word about her dog-friendly product through her Web site www.Ramp4Paws.com, distributing brochures at local veterinary clinics, and promoting the ramp by word of mouth among other dog lovers in the community. Trauernicht recently completed paperwork to officially sell her patented dog ramp, and she has already made multiple online sales and received an inquiry from a British dog owner.
After investing 10 years in Ramp4Paws, Trauernicht said that she’d like to see this project through to the end before contemplating any other canine inventions. Ramp4Paws has seen her through two pets. Sadly, Corrie, her 4-year-old black Labrador, was hit by a car last spring. Trauernicht hopes to have a canine successor later this year who can enjoy the patented dog ramp.
“My objective now is to get this into as many households as I can,” she said. “I’ve gotten very positive feedback, and people tell me I’ve covered all the bases with this instructional brochure. I designed [Ramp4Paws] from the perspective of a dog lover who knows what it’s like trying to get dogs in and out of cars.”
Leggin said that Trauernicht is driven as much by her love of animals as by her entrepreneurial spirit.
“Because of her love for dogs she’s really put her heart and soul into the ramp to make it the best product for the money,” said Leggin. “It’s a quality, safe product and something that will really work for dog owners.”