dandyARCHIVE: K9 commute ~ riding with Rover

K9 commute: Take Fido with you

By Laurel Atkinson

Photo by Dana Lacey

This story  was originally published in the Summer of 2009.

When Sarah Lamon adopted her dog almost a decade ago, she bought a basket to carry Maya with her on her bike. On one of their first trips out, the Jack Russell terrier fell from the carrier and dislocated her jaw. The jaw popped right back in, but it made Lamon nervous enough to wait another seven years before finding a new way to cycle with her pup.

I understand Lamon’s desire to be with her dog at all times. When I first brought home Banjo, my newly adopted eight-month-old border-collie cross, it became my mission to bring him with me wherever I went, be it on foot, transit or bike. Cyclists who have never owned dogs might find all of this to be a little ridiculous: after all, a dog is just a dog. But dogs have been part of our existence for about 30,000 years longer than the bicycle.

Initially, I made Banjo ‘sit’ in a rear-mounted milk crate on my bike, but he wasn’t that interested — particularly in sitting still. Kind of like Maya. A year later, he’s settled down and I’m ready to try again — but at 45 pounds, he’s now too big for the milk crate. More recently, I tried biking with Banjo on a lead, but I soon realized the leash hand needed to be separate from the handlebars, otherwise his random tugs would end up pulling the bike to the side. That left me with one hand clutching the handlebars for balance, signalling, steering, and braking. I was one squirrel away from becoming a tangled heap on the pavement.

Banjo also had to learn to keep an even pace — no sudden sprints after other dogs, no stopping for scents. He picked it all up pretty easily, but I never really felt safe biking with him this way. So I began to do my research, hoping to find a suitable trolley for my Collie.

I soon uncovered a veritable parade of creativity and invention. I’ve seen a hipster cruising down Queen Street West with a pink-collared Chihuahua in the front basket displayed like a hood ornament. On Roncesvalles, I used to see a man with a long grey beard, biking with three American Eskimo dogs running circles in a huge crate atop a cargo flatbed trailer. For small dogs, the most obvious choice is a basket. I ran into Scot McFadyen (pictured) and his two-year-old French bulldog Didi in Sorauren Park during off-leash hours back in April. Mounted on the back of his retro, Dutch-style black bike was a sleek wicker basket, Didi’s very own ride. When Didi was a puppy, McFadyen commuted to work with her stowed in a courier bag, head popping out to look around, but she soon outgrew it. “I found this basket at Curbside Cycle — it’s made specifically for dogs,” he says. A Dutch made Basil Pasja, it’s longer than the usual grocery basket, but deep enough so Didi won’t tumble out. There’s even a steel cage lid to go along with it, but once Didi got used to riding McFadyen removed it. “She sees curves in the road coming and compensates for the turn,” he says, “she just surfs in it.” To demonstrate, he puts her in the basket and tilts the bike left, then right. Little Didi continues to stand, but shifts her weight accordingly. Lamon has already tried a bike basket for Maya. She’s not interested. The Toronto arborist bought a used bike trailer designed for kids: it keeps Maya close to the ground, reducing the possibility of a big fall. It’s great for small dogs, but not for larger ones. These trailers have a solid bench for where the kids sit, but usually only have soft canvas for where their feet would go. Big dogs end up lying down on the soft undercarriage, stretching the fabric and bottoming out over bumps.

Richard Pastore chose to buy a trailer built specifically with dogs in mind. His Croozer Dog bike trailer is shaped like a rectangular box and holds up to 40 kg of canine. It has a screen mesh for air flow and can fold up flat or double as a stroller. Yes, a doggie stroller. Sawkin, Pastore’s doberman, was about seven weeks old when I first ran into them. She was still getting used to the trailer, and whined while Richard biked along Palmerston. Now, at 15 weeks, Sawkin is used to the trailer — which now doubles as her sleeping den during the day. When I ask him if he’s ever had safety concerns while biking, Richard shrugs, “Yes and no. I think drivers think there’s a kid inside, so they pass more cautiously.”

For those dog owners who simply want to run their dog while biking, there are devices that prevent the leash from becoming entangled in your spokes. Rodger Robertson and Christine Campbell use the Springer for their Pudelpointer Nellie. Described as a “dog exerciser,” the Springer is basically a u-shaped metal coil that attaches to the dog and clamps to the top of the seat tube. The coil helps to reduce the impact of any tugs, and there’s no soft leash to get caught up in the gears or wheels. “Twenty minutes with the Springer is as good as an hour-and-a-half walk,” Robertson says. When it came time to choose how my dog and I would travel by bike, Banjo ended up making the decision for us. Upon seeing Sawkin’s trailer, he immediately jumped in for a quick sniff and laid down comfortably in his new-found ‘bed.’ My underemployed self is recoiling at the price tag, but owning a trailer will also help me with my grocery shopping and the schlepping I do for work. And it would be a final push to get rid of my decrepit car that really only exists as the Banjo-mobile.

Next stop: one less car, one happy dog and thighs of steel.

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This story  was originally published in the Summer of 2009.

Update: Sorauren Park now has a permanent off-leash area.

Do you pedal with your pooch?

Email dandyhorse at bikespotting@dandyhorsemagazine.com to be included in our next pedal pooch bike spotting spread. 

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