|Oscar Fernando Ruiz Bonilla (left) and his Vietnamese wife Trần Anh Thư (right) with two of their disabled pets. Oscar has been making wheelchairs for handicapped animals for around four years in Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of Trần Anh Thư|
HCM CITY — Driven by a deep love for pets, a Colombian expat in HCM City has been making wheelchairs for disabled dogs and cats for about four years.
Oscar Fernando Ruiz Bonilla, 44, first came to Việt Nam in 2016, when he opened a Colombian restaurant. He adopted Moto, his first disabled dog, and began making pet wheelchairs.
In 2017, he launched a charity programme called Forever Wheelchair to make wheelchairs for other disabled pets.
Wanting to focus more on helping animals, he closed his restaurant in 2019 to pay full attention to Forever Wheelchair. Then in 2020, he set up his company named Forever Wheelchair, while still maintaining his charity activity.
Oscar explained to Việt Nam News that he wanted to provide better chairs for disabled pets than the ones he had previously bought because some of them had sharp parts that injured his dogs.
“Some of these manufacturers do not live 24 hours with handicapped animals, so they only understand some parts of what they need. We live with the animals all the time, so we try to look at how to improve every detail to make their lives easier.”
“Everything is about the love and passion that we feel for the animals, and especially handicapped animals, because their special condition makes it difficult for them to be adopted and easy for people to abandon them. Their condition needs special care.”
Based on his experience with his adopted disabled pets, he has designed his wheelchairs to be as comfortable as possible, with suspension forks, stable bars and lightweight parts to help pets move about freely over different types of terrain, without fear of tumbling over.
Oscar spends up to 16 hours working on designs and prototypes every day, and has taken online courses to gain more knowledge about wheelchair crafting and animal anatomy.
|Oscar helps his disabled dog use its wheelchair. His love for animal has motivated him to make his wheelchair design as comfortable as possible. — VNS Photo Việt Dũng|
Forever Wheelchair’s charity activity is Oscar’s main way of helping disabled pets. Locals contact his business for help with a handicapped pet, after which he will call for support from donors to sponsor a wheelchair.
As a result, many households who cannot afford such items now have high-quality wheelchairs for their pets.
For Oscar, helping disabled pets not only improves the pets’ lives but also their owners’ as well, who can be less stressed about taking care of their beloved animals.
So far Oscar and his team has made around 500 wheelchairs for disabled dogs and cats.
Every month they receive around 30 requests for help for handicapped animals. They also get a lot of help from Vietnamese and overseas donors, who raise funds to make wheelchairs for animals in need.
|Oscar and a co-worker examine a wheelchair part. He spends many hours working every day, and has taken online classes to improve his design skills. — VNS Photo Việt Dũng|
A big, happy family
Oscar lives in Thủ Đức City with his Vietnamese wife, Trần Anh Thư, and around 10 dogs and cats, five of whom are disabled.
Trần Anh Thư, a doctor, recalled the first time she met Oscar, when he helped her find a suitable place for her to live with her two pets after moving out of an apartment that was not pet-friendly.
“I know that he had been making wheelchairs for animals before we met each other. It is because of his love for animals that I chose him to be my life partner,” she told Việt Nam News.
|Oscar and his wife play with their pets at a nearby park. His wife said that she chose him as her husband because of his love for animals. — VNS Photo Việt Dũng|
Thư helps with Oscar’s business and activities by managing their social media promotion and connecting him with other Vietnamese by translating.
“She is helping us a lot in our journey of helping handicapped animals in Việt Nam. Forever Wheelchair has improved a lot since her joining. She is also my moral support,” said Oscar, beaming with joy when talking about his partner.
They walk their family of dogs and cats twice a day and gently help their pets get into their wheelchairs before letting them frolic around the nearby park, unhindered by their missing limbs.
Oscar tries to always allow his pets to have a walk two times a day, since they cannot walk freely and easily, and he does not want to miss out any opportunity for them to do so, according to Thư.
To Oscar, a handicapped animal is just like a handicapped person. All they need is special care. “Taking care of a handicapped animal is not easy but not impossible. Please don’t abandon your pets.”
“They are always positive and strong. Our handicapped animals teach us that even if you have such needs, you can still be happy. If people don’t have money, they can contact Forever Wheelchair, and we can ask our network of friends to help people's handicapped animals.” — VNS