Meet Jade (or as you may call her, Wheeldog)

By David Seitz

Dan Slack is a pretty reasonable guy. He’s so reasonable that most of the time, he doesn’t even mind when people question him on the street.”I understand that it’s not something you see everyday, that people are curious,” Slack said. “But when I’m walking down the street and I’ve got my headphones on, and you see that I’ve explained to someone one block back, ask them.”

For many on campus, the now-familiar imag-a young man wearing large stereo headphones walking a dog that has wheels for back legs-may arouse curiosity and amusement. But for the young man, Slack, and his dog, a 12-year-old purebred boxer named Jade, it’s just another walk.

That’s not to say that Jade doesn’t eat up (literally and figuratively) the attention she receives from Macalester students.

“She loves Mac kids,” Slack said. “She’ll go to parties and people will feed her snacks and chips. She loves to go out, especially when there are people or groups,” Slack said.

And go out Jade does. Slack, a Macalester-Groveland resident and current student at Century College in White Bear Lake, says he tries to walk Jade at least twice a day. Because Slack and his mother are currently both students, the family has also hired a professional dog walker.

For Jade, who suffers from a genetic condition called degenerative myelopathy and has significantly outlived the average boxer’s 10-year lifespan, sustaining a high level of activity is vital.

It was the onset of Jade’s degenerative myelopathy, which led to paralysis in her hind legs, that led Slack to invest in her now-iconic set of wheels.

First, Slack, who plans to transfer to Minnesota State University in Mankato to study engineering, tried to construct the apparatus himself. He got about $100 into the project, he said, when he decided to turn to a Massachusetts-based company called Eddie’s Wheels for Pets.

Eddie’s Wheels, which specializes in carts for cats and dogs, boasts an international client base and 2 acres of fields for test runs. Slack said Jade’s dogcart, as it is called, set him back about $200.

“They barely break even on it, so I really respect them,” Slack said. “There are really only three organizations in North America that I found who do even do this.”

The uniqueness of Jade’s situation has certainly not gone unnoticed on campus or in the neighborhood.

“People will do strange stuff,” Slack said. “Some guy at Dunn Brothers tried to offer me money. He just put $5 on the table and said, ‘thank you for what you’re doing.'”

Macalester-Groveland area paparazzi, for their part, have likewise been relentless.

“People will stop at like Snelling and Summit and take pictures,” Slack said. “There was one photo of me doing something illegal at like one a.m. The photo was of the dog. I saw it on someone’s MySpace.”

Ridiculous as some reactions may be, Slack keeps a relaxed outlook. He says living with Jade through her illness has reminded him that everyone-man or beast-can enjoy life, regardless of pain or dependency.

“It never really hit home for me what it means to be completely dependent on other people,” Slack said. “Jade can’t communicate her needs very well. She has to tell you when she needs to go out to relieve herself.

“But dependency doesn’t mean you can’t have a productive, fulfilling life. I mean, Jade is a dog, she’s really old and she can’t even talk. And she has fun.”

Wisdom gleaned from a dog on wheels?

Sounds pretty reasonable to me.