Gone to the Dogs

Motorcycles, I can't get enough of them. I've thrown my leg over anything my friends trust me not to scratch, and some they put me on for entertainment value such as a Gas Gas trials bike scrambling over a pile of logs in the back yard. It didn't end well, but it sure was a hoot while it lasted.

Dogs. Just how long have you got? Most days I'd rather be with my dog than with my fellow humans for perhaps we both have simpler interests and needs.

How do you combine the two? One year I took a trip out to Prince Edward Island with my dog Honey, and found that she loved chasing my nephews dirt bikes around the fields there. She'd come in the house totally covered in that bright red PEI mud and as there's no such thing as a white dog on that island. Honey learned that motorcycles were fun and that generally she loved the people that rode them. Do dogs like speed?

Keep it under 70kph, please.


 I'd have to say they do, but I thought our fun together would be confined to four wheels. :(

Until in July of 2006 at the Parry Sound Sport Bike Rally, I was introduced to Julian and Pera from Kingston ON, by my good friend Michele. Here was proof that you could ride with your dog!

Here Pera is seen sporting "Doggles" while sitting in her basket, a large plastic crate that Jules bolted to his BMW. Pera is wearing a harness that attaches her to the crate for her protection.

2006 Parry Sound Sport Bike Rally



Julian and Pera have a long ride back to Kingston and get enough time for quick hug before they're off to fill up the tank and get going.

2006 Jules, Pera and Michelle

So now I hit a brick wall with my ambition of working out something similar for Honey and I, as my ex-wife wasn't willing to accept the same level of risk as Honey and I were, so Honey had to be content running down the side walk chasing me once and a while.

After my divorce, I decided to make a clean break of it and arranged for a puppy recommended to me through my friend Stacey, she advised me that they ran a hobby farm and bred dogs as well, specifically the cocker spaniel-poodle mix breed that I had become enamoured of during my time with Honey. My parents had poodles, so I spent my formative years bonding with lapdogs and consider them to be part of the family.

Enter Suzi Bandit, an eight week old Poodle and Cocker Spaniel mix:



 "Wait a second? Suzi Bandit? Did you name your dog after a bike?"  I didn't intend for that to happen. A friend commented on the fact that she looked a bit like she was wearing a mask around her eyes, so why not call her Bandit? Hey, (sez I to myself) I've got a motorcycle in the garage that I smacked into a deer a couple of years ago, a Suzuki Bandit!

So now there was nothing barring me from getting this show started, now it was April riding season was here, and as a puppy she'd socialize and become comfortable with whatever was in the here and now, so I'd best get started with this. My plan of action was this:

a) Introduce her to non-running bikes and ensure she got high value treats paired with the experience
b) Start the bike and bring her to a comfort zone to get more liver treats
c) Shrink that comfort zone so she thought a running bike was "part of the background"
d) Obtain protective eye-wear
e) Get rain gear to protect her from the elements. This is Ontario after all.
f) Fashion a container and a means to keep her safe while on the bike
g) Ride with Suzi and develop an understanding of her comfort zone on the bike, while at the same time distraction proofing myself so that I could handle the bike safely regardless of what she was doing.


A thu E was relatively easy, and facilitated no doubt by the fact that most of my friends ride, and Suzi found that she liked all of my friends, so at the sound of a bike it meant that company is coming! Complete with liver, chicken treats, fun and games. I did make note of the fact that she detested the exhaust area of the bike, so we approached from the front, back and sides of a bike.  We made an outing or two to the racetrack to watch my friend Brian in the R.A.C.E. series:
Here she is wishing him luck.

Getting ready for the race


She met the Rider's Choice pit crew...





So she did what all pit dogs do, settle in and wait for the excitement to begin.
Where to find the Doggles? Well it turns out that there's a place downtown and I was able to get a pair for her while on my lunch hour at work from www.neopaws.com at 125 River Street in Toronto.



So I had a dog that was happy to be around running bikes, riders, gas and exhaust fumes. What next? Oh yeah. Or rather oh F & G. Right, we need something that she can ride in. Taking stock I had a backpack that she would fit in, and if I firmly secured her leash to one of the shoulder straps, she'd be unable to get out, but able to sit or lie down if she chose. Now to test ride it...

And it worked! We did run into a couple of snags. At the stop lights she really didn't like the idling and decided she'd make a half hearted attempt to get out which didn't work as she didn't have enough slack. At another light a carload of young girls with high pitched squeaky voices (dogs like higher pitched voices, they represent prey animals), she tried to ditch the motorcycle for the back of the car. This too was foiled, but clearly I had to do something about these escape attempts so that if they occurred at speed I could simply ignore them and drive on. My sister had given me a body harness that her Jack Russell Terrorist had grown out of, but would fit Suzi admirably so I began putting that on her, and it worked so well that once while trying to put my kickstand down at the TTC kiss and ride to meet my girlfriend, she scrambled out prematurely and found herself dangling from the harness. There were too many people there to provide a distraction, and she found she had to get out, close with and love them all to death. She's only jumped and dangled once more, and again only when the bike is stopped and she forgot that she had to wait until I let her down to the ground. She's never once even attempted to bail on a moving ride.

Now the backpack idea was working for short rides under an hour in duration to and from my girl friends place in Mississauga, but I'd need to find something better for the longer ride I was planning that summer to Prince Edward Island to visit with my sister. I did some research via Google and managed to find this website:

http://www.dogsonbikes.com/

Most of these dogs were smaller in general than Suzi, and the cruisers pictured there make better platforms than a Kawasaki KLR 650, but I saw some pet carriers used there, and my friend Liz Metcalfe had tagged me in my friend Karen's facebook album in photo of a woman in Toronto that rode a cruiser using a front based pet carrier, so I had a look and found the "Pet-a-Roo" by Outward Hound.


Mine came without the attractive blond and her dog, in black. It features a cross strap design and a waist belt, so there here was something I could put Suzi into with her harness and clip it onto myself. She loved it, as did I, for now she could see where we were going and I got to watch her enjoy the ride.
We're on our way to the Prince Edward Island via the Gaspe!
In the picture above you probably see that I've really loaded a lot of things onto the bike. I never really thought it out until it came time to pack how much room the dog would need for what I thought would be a three day journey to Prince Edward Island from Toronto. The items listed below took up slightly more than half the capacity of my topbox, so perhaps 16 litres of storage. Some are obvious needs...
  • Doggles
  • harness and collar
  • leash
  • pet carrier
  • windbreaker
  • full body rainsuit
  • water bottle for the dog
  • dog food
  • dog treats
  • dog toys
  • 26' "Flexi" leash
  • A bag to put all this stuff into.
The first year I would also bring camping gear as I was unsure of how many motels would allow pets on the way there and back, so I needed to keep my options open.

Let's talk about the weather. It was going to be  crapshoot, it could be perfect, or cold and wet. I knew that we could handle the perfect and cold weather to a point, but what about the rain? Humans can don rain gear and worst case, get off the highway and take themselves into a Tim Horton's or if it's really bad book a hotel right then and there, whereas I was pretty sure that the best Suzi could hope for was not to be tossed out of the front entrance of a Tim Horton's by someone claiming to represent corporate hostility at all pets everywhere. Or was that doctors? Lawyers? Insurance agents? Whichever. Once people here the words liability either dollar signs start dancing in their heads or their sphincters tighten up. One day I'd love to see a sign in a restaurant stating "Dogs allowed, Municipal and Government employees not".

Sorry Suzi, your washroom is outside.
The tent on the bike became sort of an emergency relief valve. If all else failed I could set it up and warm us up in the sleeping bag. The last time we'd been camping was on the top of Turn 2 at Mosport for the Superbike Double Header and she'd been pretty laid back about it. I've a full body rainsuit that will go on well before she gets that wet.



So shall we let out the clutch and get on with it?

This is how Suzi handled herself on the superslab. She felt much the same way I did about it, super boring. She'd tuck in, curl up and ignore it until the bike slowed down for a gas stop or there was a REALLY fragrant manure pile somewhere.



While riding with Suzi you'll note that the carrier that is strapped to my chest is resting on top of a loaded tank bag, so that limits my movement on the bike, as I usually move my bum around quite a bit and can be spotted sitting in the passenger seat with my feet on the passenger pegs at times just to uncramp muscles and keep everything moving. Not being able to take any relief like that, I had to stop every couple of hundred kilometres to stretch, and Suzi took full advantage to make friends. If we did anything to our roads in Ontario, it should be to add more grass and green parks as rest stops along the 401. A place to pull over, get a drink, go pee and let the kids and dogs romp for a bit. Quebec and Nova Scotia stand out for that alone. We always make friends along the way.


She really began to wake up as we travelled closer to the St. Lawrence seaway and our speed dropped below seventy kph. The smell of rotting fish and seaweed in the air, with a hint of salt was enthralling. Throw in the odd pig and sheep farm by the roadside in Gaspe and she was in ecstasy. Now that long boring stuff was gone and we focused on the important things such as Montreal smoked meat and fresh curd in our poutine.
Suzi's first poutine
Back on the bike and we're rolling again, headed for an early stop at six to hit the "lodging" button on the GPS and start calling hotels to see who took dogs. I'd always call the ones in an Easterly direction first, as it seemed to make sense. "Une Chambre pour la nuit avec une petite chien?" I heard one guy say over his shoulder "Der's a sicko 'ere dat wants a room that comes wit a small dog, eh?" after telling me they had nothing. We struck pay dirt in a little motel along the St Lawrence and were all settled in before eight so we took to the beach to explore, take some photo's and watch the sunset.

Apparently I can charge for this sort of thing, as the owners cat wanted to come along with us...


We had perfect weather with one cold spell at Port Elgin New Brunswick that Suzi shook off in her rainsuit while sniffing out mice in the tall grass, but I had every layer that I could stuff on before I felt good. IN AUGUST!!!! That winter I bought a heated jacket at long last for moments like that...




Here we are arriving at my destination, my sister Wendy's place where Suzi is met by her dogs Abby the Labrador Retriever and Zip Zip the Jerk Russell Terrier. I pulled out some treats to properly say hello. Chicken and liver equals happy dogs. :D

You rode 1600 kilometres in here?! I don't believe it!



This is why I brought her, she's part of my pack. We had an excellent adventure last year, and I invite you to see more pictures of our travels here:

http://rottenxxxronnie.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html

My last day in PEI, and I think Zip Zip wanted to come along with Suzi and I, or perhaps she didn't want to stray too far from the chicken and liver. :D


Here are some pictures from our trip to Prince Edward Island to visit my sister again in 2010. On the way home the weather grew terribly warm, and I think Suzi began to grow pretty comfortable with her ability to stand on the bike, so she began to take more interest in the ride, and stepped out of the bag and onto my tank.
Stuntin'


She was surfing for air currents that would allow her to smell her surroundings with the least amount of ear flappage, and she discovered a sweet spot coming over my handguards.



But a full day in that kind of heat takes it's toll on both of us.


Thanks for checking this out. Suzi and I are patiently waiting for the snow to clear so we can start more adventures this coming season.

Keep the shiny side up, and the rubber side down.


Cheers!

2011/11/03
Suzi's third riding season is over, and although she's been to East Coast twice, I planned a vacation on 1000km of gravel across gravel to Newfoundland that I didn't think would be a good idea to take a dog along for. In spite of that we've managed a few trips out, and she's transitioned nicely to my rat bike of a 2001 Suzuki Bandit GSF600.





Suzi's idea of a nice rest between rides...


Suzi on the 2001 Suzuki Bandit GSF600s
That let's us do things like this together. :D

Update 2013/10/01:

I sold the KLR and the Bandit and bought a DR650E, which meant I had a lot less real estate on the tank for her to sit on, but we did manage a few shorter rides in late 2012, but it was clear that it would be for shorter distances only on that bike.



She finds that paws on the bash bar works well, until I hit steering lock

She likes to stand up behind the slipstream spitfire windshield and peer over the top


I swapped it for a 2009 Kawasaki Versys KLE 650, and she's been on it a number of times this year. She hasn't quite found the sweet spot for spoiled air yet, and consequently moves around on the tank finding her favourite riding position.










Update: 

Sadly, Suzi Bandit was attacked by a coyote on Feb 2, 2016 and passed away in my arms later that day. 

She hated the 1000km days, but loved the secondary coastal roads, farms and their livestock, and being with me for every road side adventure. 

We shared seven wonderful years of adventure and love, and I miss her dearly.



Suzi Bandit
February 11, 2009 to February 2, 2016

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous16/4/11 18:58

    This was a great read Ron.

    Jesse.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Jesse, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous13/6/11 20:29

    Great write up and pictures. You are a good sport for taking your best friend along.

    Thanks for posting it up.

    Sunday Rider

    ReplyDelete