Bill Braham and his eight-year-old American Eskimo pooch, Paka, make such a sight that they have been driven off the road twice by motorists trying to take their picture.
It’s not every day that you see a dog decked out in standard biker gear – beanie helmet and goggles – cruising on the back of a motorcycle in what surely must be the ultimate “face in the wind” canine experience. But Paka lives to ride.
“He goes everywhere with me,” says Braham, a bear of a man who seems better suited to a bulldog or a German shepherd than a fluffy white creature with black-button eyes.
The two draw giggles and stares no matter where they ride through the Fraser Valley. They are frequently spotted in Aldergrove, Langley and Abbotsford – where they lived until just recently – but will go wherever the road takes them.
The two first became best buddies in 2006. Braham, who is single, was looking for a pet to keep him company, and came across an online ad for an American Eskimo. The owner was in poor health and couldn’t properly look after the dog anymore.
The pet was named Paka – the Inuit word for “friend.” He was living in a trailer, with not much room to frolic, and Braham couldn’t bear to leave him behind.
At first, the pooch was a tad on the nervous side.
“He’d bark at air. When I first got him, he drove me nuts.”
Braham solved that problem by squirting water at the dog every time he barked. It took only six facefuls of water before Paka learned to shut his snout.
Braham realized he had a quick learner on his hands.
Braham, who began riding motorcycles about 35 years ago but had taken a break, yearned to return to two wheels. In 2007, he purchased a spanking-new special-edition Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak.
It was a beauty – black and red with silver flames – but he had to wait three months to get it.
“I bought the bike because I love to ride, and I looked at the dog and said, ‘Well, I guess you’re going to have to come with me.’ “
He didn’t want Paka’s eyes to water in the wind or be hit by flying bugs or debris, so Braham purchased a pair of doggie goggles – called Doggles – at the pet store. He put them on Paka around the house until he got used to wearing them for longer and longer periods.
When the motorcycle arrived, Braham, who works at a PVC plant in Abbotsford, crafted a special seat for Paka that consisted of a pad surrounded by an aluminum rail with room enough at the bottom for his tail to stick out.
About two weeks later, it was time for Paka’s first ride. Braham put the Doggles in place, lifted Paka onto the seat, and away they went.
Paka, whose initial anxiety had given way to a more easygoing nature, sat quietly and comfortably, craning his head to peer around Braham as they motored along from Abbotsford to MIssion. He was a perfectly behaved riding buddy who couldn’t wait for his next ride.
“We came home, and the next morning he came out and he ran up to the bike, jumped in and sat down. He knew it was his bike. I was just the chauffeur,” Braham said.
Paka’s look wasn’t yet complete, however. He needed a helmet. Braham had a tiny beanie crafted out of fibreglass and attached the goggles to it to form one piece that easily slipped on and off.
Paka leaves the contraption in place while they’re riding, but knocks it if off when they stop by butting his head against the corner of his carrier. The headpiece sports the initial “D.O.G.” on the back – a play on the initials “D.O.T.” (department of transportation) that appear on the back of safety-approved helmets.
Braham and Paka have logged 150,000 km on their motorcycle. They have ridden throughout B.C., setting up camp when they stop for the night. Paka is not fond of the accommodation.
“I have to literally drag him into the tent and close the door … If he doesn’t have at least a four-star hotel, he’s not happy,” Braham laughs.
The pair have been in four collisions, the most recent of which was on Aug. 2, when Braham was rounding a curve on Huntingdon Road in Abbotsford and slid through a pile of blueberries that had fallen off a farming truck.
He broke a couple of ribs and suffered some road rash, while Paka’s only injury was a cut to his nose.
In fact, the dog has not been injured in any of the accidents, but did break one of his hind legs last November when he fell down some stairs.
Braham says the two have many more adventures ahead together.
“He’s my buddy.”