Mountain Bikers Should Have Dogs

Somehow, at some point, I stopped worrying about separating my private life from this blog. Mostly, this is because I am lazy. It was too much work to remember to not talk specifically about my real name, my wife’s name, where I work, or where I live.

In short, I am as open with my identity to pretty much the same extent as Bike Snob NYC is guarded with his.

And yet, there is one member of my family I believe I have never mentioned.

The cat.

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Everyone, meet the Nelson family cat. Her name is Kisa. “Kisa,” by the way, is Finnish for “cat.” Kisa is a resentful cat. Ostensibly belonging to my 12-year-old son, this cat (which I have nicknamed “El Gato Stupido”) does not like anyone in the family except Susan. Kisa follows Susan everywhere, earning an occasional angry swat on the nose from me when she nearly trips Susan up. (It’s not cute to trip someone walking with a broken hip. Plus I really like to swat the cat on the nose.)

This cat is as large as a raccoon, with similar coloring, while exhibiting the playfulness one expects from a cat nine times her age (i.e., 27).

If I Had My Druthers
I bring up the cat mostly to point out that I consider this cat a perfect example of what a mountain biker doesn’t want in a pet.

Mountain bikers should have dogs. And dogs, clearly, should have mountain bikers.

The only reason we don’t have a dog is because Susan has explained to me that if I were to get a puppy (and I would definitely want to start with a puppy, so I could raise it in the ways of mountain biking), she would be the one taking care of it day in and day out, while I’m away at work. This is a fair point and I do not dispute it, and so we do not have a dog.

Yet.

Even though it’s kind of a shame and should maybe even be a crime that a guy who loves mountain biking and owns a truck doesn’t have a dog, too.

Good Dogs
The reason I want a dog is because I’ve been mountain biking with friends who bring their dogs along. Provided the dogs have learned the cardinal rule — yield to descending bikes — dogs are invariably the most popular member of the riding group.

Seriously, it’s a privilege to have the dog choose you to hang with, even for part of the ride. It makes you feel like there’s something inherently good about yourself. In reality, of course, it could be nothing more than that the dog finds your stench intriguing or figures you look like the type to share your water bottle. Doesn’t matter. The dog doesn’t offer an explanation, and you don’t ask.

A long time ago, the first guy I ever went mountain biking with — Stuart — had a terrific dog for riding. Her name was Daisy. She ran back and forth during the climb, policing the group, and then made a game of staying out front as long as she could on the downhill.

But when you got close and wanted her to get out of the way, all you had to do was hiss at her: “Tsss tsss tsss.” She’d find a way to yield, immediately.

I know so little about dogs that I don’t even know what kind of dog it was. Short tail, short hair, blunt nose.” A really good dog.

What I Would Want In A Dog
I actually hadn’t thought about getting a dog in quite some time until a couple weeks, as we were driving to Disneyland. We split the drive into two days so we could spend the night at Susan’s mom’s.

Susan’s mom has a very good dog. She’s not sure of the breed, except that it’s half St. Bernard. I would wager that the other half is Yellow Lab, since the dog — his name is “Pal,” a good name for a dog — looks like the largest, most barrel-chested Yellow Lab you’ve ever seen.

I was thinking that Pal would be a good mountain biking dog, until I thought about the fact that I like to climb. I’m not sure Pal’s built like a climber. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a dog really have to work to keep up with a mountain bike on the climbs. So maybe a big dog would be just fine.

The fact is, I don’t really know what are the most important qualities a dog needs to have to be a good mountain biking companion. The list that occurs to me sounds kind of like a bizarre “personals” ad:

  • Must tolerate heat well
  • Must be able to last for a three hour ride
  • Must be social (I don’t want it threatening other riders or other dogs)
  • Must have short hair (I am not going to take the time to brush out brambles from long hair after rides)
  • Must be able to handle the climbs

What kind of dog is that? I don’t know, really. Maybe it’s a Lab. I’ve always liked how friendly they are. Maybe it’s a German Shepherd. Maybe it’s an Australian Shepherd (I watched an Australian Shepherd competition once and was astounded at how capable they are).

What’s the best kind of dog for mountain bikers? I’m guessing some of you have strong, informed opinions on this.

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