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June 23, 2009

Biker Dog — At first she was 'sloppy' on the turns but then she started to surf

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So said Alan Ribner of his dog Sevey (above and below), who accompanies him everywhere in a custom-built dog motorcycle seat.

Here's Tara Bahrampour's story from the front page of yesterday's Washington Post Metro section with the details.

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Biker Dog

Virginia Man Never Goes Anywhere Without His Motorcycle Mutt

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Her wavy black hair streaming behind her, she rides without helmet or clothes; just a neckerchief, goggles and a toothy smile. She elicits stares, thumbs-up and sometimes outrage. After all, who's to say she enjoys it, perched precariously on the back of a souped-up Harley-Davidson, careering down the highway at 60 mph? Dogs were not meant to fly that way.

Sevey, a black mutt who has logged 60,000 miles over nine years, would beg to differ. In fact, she begs so insistently for the open road that her owner and riding partner, Alan Ribner, 47, can't bring himself to get on his bike without her.

"I feel terrible," he said. "She's too crazy about it." And so, each time he goes for a ride, the Leesburg resident heaves the 55-pound dog into an ostrich leather, fur-lined seat behind him.

As soon as he puts the key in the ignition, Sevey barks enthusiastically, detecting a high note that occurs seconds before the engine turns over. They launch into gear and they're off, thundering down their placid residential street, her high-pitched "Arf! Arf!" punctuating the roar of his Harley.

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Neighbors wave. Strangers do double takes. Some follow in their cars, pulling alongside and holding out cellphones to take pictures.

"My husband rides bikes, so he'll love this," Stephanie La Lumiere said from a sport-utility vehicle as she snapped a photo.

"I let my child get on the back of a motorcycle," she added. "So I understand."

Ribner waves, and he and Sevey zoom toward the highway.

Their relationship began nine years ago, when Ribner spotted the listless mutt on the road near a 7-Eleven in Lovettsville.

After inquiring about whether anyone had lost a dog, he and his then-girlfriend, a veterinarian, took her in and named her after the store where they had found her.

Ribner, who sells BMWs in Sterling, had always fantasized about putting a dog in a sidecar. One day, he and Sevey drove out to a company he had heard of in Middletown that makes custom motorcycle dog seats, which run about $600. As a test run, the company's owner buckled Sevey into a seat on his bike.

"When he started up the motor, she jumped out of the seat, but she was strapped in, and I'm like, 'Oh my God, what have I done? I'm torturing this dog,' " Ribner said.

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But 15 minutes later, "they come back, her ears are flapping in the breeze . . . and she's wagging her tail as happy as can be." A little later, when the man started his bike again, "she bolted toward the bike, and that's when I knew she was hooked."

At first, she wasn't a good rider. She threw her weight in the wrong direction on turns. She was, as Ribner described it, "sloppy."

After a few thousand miles, however, Sevey started to surf. Standing on four legs, she leaned into a turn like a good bike passenger. Now that she is older -- 11 or 12 by Ribner's estimate -- she sits instead of stands, hanging her front paws over the edge of the fur-lined seat, peering around him and barking into the wind as they pass farms and strip malls.

Many people know her by sight. Some even know her name and call it out as she goes by. They travel frequently to Pennsylvania, where Ribner's 4-year-old daughter lives, and they have traveled as far as Upstate New York. Even after a 12-hour trip, Ribner said, she wants to keep going.

"It's the ultimate feeling of freedom for a dog," he said. "She's out on the prowl with the leader of the pack, wind in her face."

Sevey's presence enhances the ride for him, too.

"It's very peaceful to be riding my bike with my dog rumbling to me. There's a strange connection. I know what she's looking at -- horses, birds. I keep my right mirror aimed at her instead of on the road, so I can see where she's looking."

Inevitably there are times when the police get involved. They inspect Sevey's rig. They call in to see whether there are any laws on the books about dogs and bikes (as far as Ribner knows, there are not). Eventually, they wave the pair back onto the road.

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But does it worry people?

"Oh my God, yeah," said Angela Chan, an animal control officer who spotted Sevey and Ribner last week in a Leesburg parking lot. She has seen them around town for years, she said, and it has always worried her.

She peppered Ribner with questions. "Is he happy? Do they make dog helmets?"

Ribner, who wears a "shorty" helmet, replied that he had not found one that fit a dog. But he is not too worried; when a deer stepped out and caused them to crash last year, he was slightly injured, but the seat protected Sevey.

"Oh well," Chan said with a smile, "the goggles are a start."

So Ribner is set with the authorities. But what if one day he meets a human female who wants to ride on the bike with him?

He shook his head. "I wouldn't do Sevey like that. I would have to find me a biker chick who has her own bike."

They returned home. Ribner parked the bike inside, in front of a picture window. Sevey lapped up a bowl of water and trooped in behind him.

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Often she sits there all day, staring at the motorcycle. That way, no one can go riding without her.

June 23, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

I started my dog as a puppy, riding with me. She got too big to ride in front of me, 65# akita. I built her a box to ride in, to see if she still enjoyed riding, before I spent 600 dollars on beastrider for her. She still likes riding on the bike. She has pink goggles that make her look like a cool biker chick. I am glad to hear there is no laws preventing me to ride my dog with me on the back of my Harley. I will order the beastrider for my boyfriend's bike since he has the sissy bar on his bike. I hope I can get some pictures of her on the bike soon. I want to bring her to bike nights around the area soon, and she will be able to ride with me when we go to Leesburg next year. Anyone wanting to start a biker dog club, can e mail me at Ldieter@tampabay.rr.com. Thanks, Linda

Posted by: Linda Dieter | Jun 25, 2009 12:05:55 AM

Here's one of many Google links on Biker Dogs: http://www.bikerdogsmc.org/

Posted by: Kay | Jun 23, 2009 9:07:55 PM

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