A Man and His Dog

Bill and Sandy

Yesterday there were some videos posted on NiT which showed a man riding a scooter with his dog (Sandy) riding pillion. The post is titled Someone Call PETA and included the phrase “another video of that same awesome dog riding on the freeway with his boneheaded owner”. Well it turns out that I know this “bonehead”, or more accurately, I know of him. He is an active contributer to the BurgmanUSA forums and we’d exchanged a couple emails awhile back. Now I figured I’d let him know about the post so he could tell his side of the story and leave it at that. But, I was so impressed with his (Bill Meek) and Phil’s response, I just had to repost them here.

Bill’s response:

The only boneheads are the ones out of the road endangering us while riding. In over 23,000 miles, the only time Sandy’s came off the bike on the road is when some idiot hit us while trying to take a picture with a cell phone looking out the passenger window. If I notice anyone driving and trying to take a picture at the same time, I WILL move away from them. If you want a picture, flag me over and I gladly stop to let you safely take photos.

Sandy’s riding abilities are beyond what you might imagine. She uses the passenger backrest (with a specific position to place her butt) to allow us to accelerate and uses my back or shoulders to brace against during hard braking. And “yes”, we’ve done MANY panic stops in her 23,000 miles of riding. Sandy also leans into curves just like any good passenger should and it was pointed out to me by another rider that she watches the road ahead and switches sides before we reach the curve to be in the correct position to lean.

I’ve been asked why I don’t strap her to the bike? For the same reason you don’t where a seatbelt when riding a motorcycle: In case of an accident, you must be able to get away from the bike. If strapped to the bike, it’ll drag you down the road with it. And if the bike high-sides, there’s a good chance of a flip that will crush you if you can’t separate from the bike.

If you read the second thread Casey posted you’ll notice that I don’t suggest other people try this. Before Sandy ever sat directly on the seat, she’d already ridden over 5,000 miles in the box learning her unique sense of balance required to ride pillion. The only reason she was moved to the seat is when she got to be (about) 30 pounds, moving quickly from one side of the box to the other would move the entire bike on the road. I spent time testing and retraining Sandy to ride pillion including buying a Corbin seat so the pillion seat was ‘dished out’ rather than humped providing her a better place to sit.

Do I think riding a motorcycle is safe? No… but we all assume some risk with many things that we do in life. You have to balance the risk with the joy you get from the fun things you do and Sandy certainly enjoys riding the Burgman. The Burgman is not just a “fun thing to ride” for us. It’s our primary transportation. How else would she have ridding that many miles and yet is only 2 years old?

Don’t waste your time calling PETA. They’re the type of people that would intentionally try to run both of use of the road… for (ahem) Sandy’s well being. Instead you may call the Lawrence County Animal Welfare League (931-231-0996) who works with the local Sheriff’s department to prosecute animal cruelty cases where I live. Be sure to say that, “Sandy the dog says HI!” If you really want to make a difference in a dogs life, go out and volunteer some of your time to a local pound or shelter and help dogs that need a good home FIND a good home. Or better yet, adopt a dog and PROVIDE it a good home.

Bill and Sandy

Phil’s response:

I’ve personally known Sandy since she was quite small. In fact, if memory serves, I met her a day or two after Bill found her crying under his back porch, in a cold rain, about six weeks old and dying of hypothermia and starvation. She’d been dumped, like so many other unwanted puppies, and was so traumatized that Bill actually had to disassemble the porch in order to get her to come out, again in the dark and a steady, cold rain.

When I first met Sandy, Bill hadn’t even named her yet. He asked my opinon as to whether or not he ought to keep her, and I said I thought they were a perfect match. I should mention in passing here that Bill is hardly wealthy. He’s got a severe physical disabilty that prevents him from sitting for any period of time in what the rest of us might call a “normal” position, and draws a small pension that is just about his only source of income. While he can ride in an ordinary car for very short distances, after a few miles he begins to experience severe pain. His scooter’s seating position, however, is quite tolerable. Thus, by no choice of his own, Bill rides his scooter pretty much everywhere he goes, year-round.

This included Sandy’s first rides to the vet, when she was still just a tiny thing. he had no other way to transport her, so she rode the scooter. I was present on many of these early rides, and it was clear that Sandy absolutely loved the exerence. When she outgrew her box and began riding in the manner she does today, it was pretty clear to me that she was fully as capable of holding her seat as most humans.

What is perhaps most important to understand here is the bond that has grown up between Sandy and Bill. They are closer than any dog/owner combo I’ve ever known. he would never do anything that he believes would put her at excessive risk. Sandy has learned a whole bagful of tricks, and it’s clear as one watches her perform that she performs them out of love for her master. In turn, Bill has reorganized his whole life around Sandy, in a way that most dogs can only dream their owners might do for them. Excepting time in stores and restaurants, they are together pretty much 24/7, and both seem quite happy with the arrangement. Bill and Sandy have also entertained hundreds if not thousands of bystanders with their antics.

I’ll admit that at first I had some doubts about the wisdom of all this. I even voiced my opinion to Bill, and we discussed the matter in some depth. But, in the end, a near-miss of my own while riding (someone in a full-sized pickup decided they wanted to share a lane with me at 70 MPH on I-65) helped me put the whole thing in persepective. First, Sandy wouldn’t be alive at all without Bill; the first thing he ever did upon meeting her was to save her life. Second, Sandy isn’t taking many chances that humans don’t routinely take in the name of their love of motorbikes. No, she doesn’t have a helmet, and that’s unfortunate. But lots of humans ride without them (where legal), and if there was one avalable for her I’m sure Bill would buy one and make Sandy use it. She loves motorcycling as much as any grizzled old Harley rider. We accept that humans are allowed to take risks in the name of pleasure and excitement, or else no one would be allowed to climb mountains or skydive. So, why not dogs? Thirdly, I think Sandy’s thick fur coat constitutes pretty good crash gear, certainly better than anything I can buy for myself at the motrcycle shop. And fourth…

Well… This one’s kind of hard to explain. But I for one am tired of living in a world where everyne is so terrified of risk. We are mortl beings, and every one of us (dogs included)is going to die. Most dogs will have known no more than the confines of their backyards and maybe a little park they get to go “walkies” in twice a week. Sandy, however, will have known the freedom of the wind in her fur, the world speeding buy, and the smiling faces of thousands of admirers. Who is to say that this is not worth risking a shortened lifespan for?

So, I’ve made my peace with Sandy’s riding style. I’ve ridden a long way with her, and she’s as good a biking buddy as a man can ask for. And Bill, who volunteers hlping out a local animal humane group from time to time, rides to and from their meetings with Sandy on pillion. These animal lovers, kowing all the facts, raise no objection.

In my book, the people who try and keep large breed dogs in tiny apartments, locking them in all day and then neglecting them all evening, are animal abusers. Bill Meek, whether you agree with his choices regarding sandy or not, is no such thing.

Now to be fair, Brittney responded that the headline was a joke (no word on whether “boneheaded owner” bit was a joke as well). But, I’m not posting this not to demonstrate that Bill is right. Makes me a bit nervous to be honest. Rather, I found the story of Bill and Sandy and their love for one another and motorcycles so compelling I wanted to post it here on its own.

  • Follow the discussion over at Nashville is Talking.
  • More pictures and videos of Sandy.
  • The BurgmanUSA site.