Vehicle options for aging canine companions

Dear Car Talk:

My 13-year-old, 75-pound rescue golden retriever can’t get in my 2005 GMC Yukon anymore. Unfortunately, she won’t use either the steps or the ramp I got for her.

She had been able to put her front paws in the car, and then I would lift her butt. However, she won’t put her front paws up anymore, and I can’t lift her (she does take meds for arthritis).

I tried using a 6-inch-high platform, but it slipped, she slipped, and then I slipped and landed on my butt. I’m 77 years old; 5 foot, 1 inch and shrinking; and 120 lbs. My pocketbook with my phone was in the car, as well as the garage door remote. If I had been hurt, I could have been there for days.

She’s so excited when she knows I’m going out and looks so disappointed when I leave her home, so I thought I should get a “dog” car (I’ll keep the Yukon). I’ve been wandering around the Walmart parking lot checking out cars, trying not to look suspicious and hoping they don’t call the cops.

Sedans don’t seem to have very much space between the front and back seats, and I don’t think she’d be able to get on the seat. So I asked a nice lady if I could measure her minivan. It was 18 inches from the ground, compared to 24 inches for the side door and 33 inches for the back door entrances in the Yukon.

Is there a car that could accommodate my dog? A sedan where the back seat could be removed and didn’t have a transmission hump or other impediments would be OK. Even a small van. I just don’t know what to look for. Any advice is appreciated.

— Holly

Have you tried throwing a pork chop in the car, Holly?

Actually, she’s a lucky dog to have such a dedicated and loving human. Unfortunately, she’s 13 years old, and her arthritis is getting worse, so whatever you do, you don’t know how long she’ll be able to benefit from it. But if you’re willing and able to buy a car just to suit your tail-wagging friend, I think a minivan is probably your best bet.

Minivans have sliding side-doors that open very wide and provide great access. They have lots of flat floor space right inside the door, and most have seats that can be removed so they’re not in the dog’s way. And my guess is that the step-in height at the side door is quite a bit less than 18 inches. So, I would suggest you look at used Chrysler Pacificas, Toyota Siennas, Honda Odysseys, Mazda 5s or any other minivans that catch your eye.

And be sure to take the dog with you when you go to look, to make sure it works well for both of you. You don’t want to get something that clashes with her coat.

If you can’t find a vehicle that works well, don’t despair. Even though she’d be excited to go for a ride with you, I’m certain she’d be just as excited to go for a walk with you. Or sit at your feet and wait for you to drop a Ritz cracker with liver pate.

Best of luck to both of you.

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(c) 2021 by Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman
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