A year ago, Nancy Friedersdorf's neighbors found her lying in a street near her home with a broken shoulder.
Friedersdorf, 81, was walking her dog, Holly, when the rambunctious 75-pound Irish setter inadvertently wrapped the leash around her legs and tripped her.
Friedersdorf, who lives near North Houghton Road and East Catalina Highway, has recovered from the injury, but ever since the fall she hasn't been able to walk her only dog.
"She's extremely active," Friedersdorf, a Tucson resident for 17 years, said of Holly. "I can't walk her like a normal dog because she'll knock me down."
That is, until recently.
Aware of Friedersdorf's dilemma, Allen Godard, her neighbor, customized a dog walker out of an old bike and some spare tubing.
The device, a bright blue series of poles connected to two bike wheels and a handlebar, helps her control and direct Holly.
Now Friedersdorf can take Holly wherever she wants in the neighborhood while the 1 1/2-year-old auburn setter gets her exercise.
"It's really easy," said a beaming Friedersdorf as she demonstrated how the walker works. "I just have to hold on to the grip, and she even pulls me up the slopes."
Holly has the freedom to dart around on her leash but can't get behind Friedersdorf or pull her too sharply, which she tended to do before.
"She's as bull-legged as a cow dog," Friedersdorf joked.
Godard, 47, a retired engineer, is happy that he could help.
"I think it's tremendous," he said. "Her dog's her family."
When he heard Friedersdorf couldn't walk Holly anymore, he decided to help her out.
"That's what I do as an engineer," he said. "Solve problems."
It took Godard five days to make the walker, and he did so in secrecy. The success of the invention hasn't gotten him acclaim only from Friedersdorf. Neighbors have noticed the effectiveness of the walker too.
"I ran out on the street to look at this," said neighbor Mary Bieneman, who has known Friedersdorf for 18 years. "It's a way for her to see the neighborhood, get out into the community and walk her dog. It gave her a new lease on life."
Now the next-door inventor is thinking about patenting his project.
"Certainly (I will) if there's enough interest in the marketplace," he said.
Godard is looking into the cost of raw materials to see if he can produce more of the walkers.
Friedersdorf believes others would want it, especially elderly and disabled people with balance problems or with big dogs they can't control.
"There must be people with Rottweilers or German shepherds who can't walk them," she said.
Not only has the walker given Friedersdorf another chance to walk her dog, but it has even helped train Holly to walk straight.
"The only thing it lacks is a seat," Friedersdorf joked.
want to buy it?
For information on buying a dog walker, e-mail Allen Godard at firstname.lastname@example.org.