Going Grey means going Green

Reader Stories

Pedal, Walk, and Ski with your Dog

Susan Purvis and her K-9 partner Tasha have gone green even though they are both going grey, by giving up the gas guzzling means of transportation. They are taking to the streets and backcountry in an eco-friendly way– by mountain bike and a K-9 Wagon.

“I am not going to let your grey beard and stiff joints slow us down, ole girl,” I said to Tasha, my retired search dog.

“Hop in, let’s go,” as I attached her wagon to the back of my mountain bike.

Without hesitation, my 13-year-old black Labrador retriever loads up for the first time in her wagon, or chariot as I call it, and we head down the road to the lake five minutes from my home in Whitefish, Montana. Tasha and I are on another great adventure—this time, I am bicycling 80 extra pounds under the might of my own two legs rather than driving in my environmentally unfriendly one-ton truck. I pray she stays inside the wagon as I gain speed down the hill.

Earlier this summer, I faced a major dilemma regarding my gimpy K-9 partner, Tasha. How was I going to keep my active lifestyle in the mountains and physical fitness level now that she can’t participate in the outdoors at the same level as me? Guilt crept through my mind every time I locked her inside the house when I hopped on my mountain bike, hiked, or even ran errands around town.

Susan and Tasha

Tasha and I have been inseparable outdoor companions for the past 13 years exploring the backcountry of Colorado as a search and rescue team. We have jumped out of helicopters, scrambled across mountainsides, dug up avalanche victims and searched the wilderness for people dead and alive. We have always on the go exploring new places and environments. The work has kept us strong and healthy, until this summer, when Tasha’s physical condition changed. At age 90, in human years, she is not the spry athletic dog she used to be. Her life is changing and as a result, so is my fitness level. I find myself staying home more often than I liked. I couldn’t stand it any longer.

How could I get exercise, involve my dog, and be environmentally conscious? I remembered seeing toddlers transported around town and toted up mountain sides behind bicycles, on skis, and in joggers. Maybe somebody makes wagons for K-9s? I checked www.burley.com, the manufactures of the toddler wagon, and to my surprise they also made wagons for K-9.

Within a few days my new 4-wheel drive Tail Wagon arrived at my doorstep complete with rain fly, bike, ski and stroller adapters. At that moment, my life changed both from an environmental and a health conscious stand point. Tasha now joins me while I pedal towards the ski resort for my daily workout and travels with me while I run errands. She stands proud and tall on all fours inside the wagon, ears flapping in the wind as she growls at strange dogs and deer passing by. She lets everyone know she is riding in the wagon.

The empty Tail Wagon comes in handy for hauling groceries and supplies, which keeps my big green truck parked in the driveway.

The most unexpected surprise while hauling Tasha through town came in the form of new friends. Tasha and I are changing the way my community does business with peddle power. Neighbors, who were once complete strangers now honk, cheer, point, and smile at us. Some stop us in the street to pet Tasha or take her picture. Others track us down, wanting to know where they can buy one so they can start pedaling.

What turned out to be a simple idea to stay active in the outdoors with my aging dog has turned into a Cinderella story. My four-wheeled drive K-9 chariot has turned Tasha into the neighborhood celebrity, introduced me to new friends to share the outdoors with, and allows me to explore a new place with a different set of eyes.

Last modified: April 10, 2012

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