Better Than Leaving The Bike At Home
I don’t care where we go
I don’t care what we do
I don’t care pretty baby
Just take me with you – prince
O.K. I know what you’re thinking. Dogs are meant to pull humans, not the other way around. What’s worse is the perception that you treat your dog like some sort of 4 legged diva. Well, there is a reason for this.. and I certainly don’t advocated dogs as pint-sized debutantes. On the other hand, sometimes you find yourself in situations you’d never thought of before. Take this summer for instance, where we found ourselves giving up on family biking when on vacation because we had no place to leave the dog.
It happened earlier this summer when we had 2 sea kayak symposiums to attend in two weeks. We’d already been gone a week earlier in the year and exhausted our “dog sitting” options and 2 weeks is way too long to leave your pets home by themselves in any circumstance. If you don’t have someone to check in on them, can’t afford or don’t wish to leave your pets at a kennel for such a long time, you have to find another solution. For us, we simply felt we’d have to bring our pup along on the trip. It’s not that we don’t want our dog to come along, but at the same time bringing the dog puts limits on what activities you can take part in. If you camp, you can’t leave your dog alone in the tent and many hotels won’t allow you to leave the dog alone in the room either. That can really put a crimp in your kayaking and cycling time. Either someone is left behind or you just can’t do it. I bet you can see where this is going can’t you?!
Dogs generally don’t do well simply running along side a bike.. You can’t legally have them off the leash and frankly, it’s just not safe to have them tied to you. Our dog, is just too “all over” to stay on one side of the bike anyway. It was somewhere in one of those desperate, “”I wonder if she could wear roller skates??”" conversations that we happened upon the idea of a kid cart.
What little pride I have left would not allow me to buy a new kid carrier for a dog, so we waited until we found one at a yard sale. $35 is certainly a fair fee to get our vacation biking back. Maybe buying one new is worth it too.. but I’ll leave that to you to decide! Oh, and yes, there are “REAL” doggie carts out there!! The cart we found would hold up to 50lbs, our dog is maybe 40-45 tops. I didn’t make any real changes to the cart other than to put a pad down to stabilize the bottom a bit. Without something to distribute a standing dog’s weight, their feet will push the fabric bottom too far down which could hit obstacles along the trail. Their claws could also rip or get caught in the fabric. More importantly, it just wouldn’t be comfortable.. Imagine standing on a trampoline, mounted on a trailer, while being pulled by a car traveling down a bumpy road. It would be an exhausting experience. Your dog may sit or lie down in the cart.. but well, not ours! (Not when you’re moving anyway!)
Yesterday we went out to the 400 bike trail near La Valle, Wisconsin to give the doggie cart idea a test run. At first, she jumped right into the cart which made things easy… at first. I used a short leash attached to the cart to prevent her from jumping out and running around when we were moving. We also put the top up part way, hoping that being enclosed would feel more familiar, like riding in a car.
The first step was to simply walk the bike (and the cart) along the trail for a while to allow her to get used to it. She instantly jumped out. I’d left just enough slack in the lead to allow her to get her body out and sideways. That’s why you don’t just jump on and ride. I put her back, and as soon as we moved, she jumped back out. I adjusted the lead a bit, but I didn’t want to limit her movement too much either.
OK.. The next step was to close the front. There is a screen that uses snaps and Velcro enclose the cart completely. That was enough to keep her from trying to jump out. After a couple of minutes she laid down and accepted her fate. We could finally try actually riding our bikes. At first she laid there quietly and looking out the screens, but soon she started whimpering. She wasn’t enjoy it. I’d ride up along-side her (The cart was attached to Mary’s bike.) and as long as I stayed right beside her she would quiet down. If I moved off, she would get upset.
The next idea was that I would pull her. So we switched bikes. I was also pretty sure that she would rather be out in the open. So I took down the cover again, and re-adjusted her lead to be sure she could not jump out. That worked. In fact, in a few minutes she was obviously enjoying the ride, looking like any dog hanging out the window of a car. In this case, she was just standing on the bike trailer and leaning as far forward as her lead would let her so as to see around me and the bike to whatever was ahead. We of course took breaks to walk around, drink, eat and such.. but she happily jumped right back into the cart from then on. In fact, we did about 15 miles total once we got in the swing.
So now we have a solution to vacation bike riding even without somewhere to leave the dog. I’m still thinking I may work on a more solid floor for the cart, but the pad does work for now and weight is an issue. I can tell you, I wouldn’t pull the dog in a cart for fun. Pulling the trailer and 45lbs of dog is a workout. The constant drag on the bike gets wearing as the miles go on. I also felt really stupid when others pass us on the trail and smile… (Idiot?! Yeah, I know!) Well, that was until we had other riders want to stop and talk about it. We learned we weren’t the only ones that have faced the pet/bike dilemma. (And yeah, I think there were a couple diva dog owners out there too!) Still, it’s a solution. Better to take the dog when you ride, than not to be able to ride at all!
Now if I could only teach her to stay on the back deck of my kayak…