One of the highlights of my winter in Baja was riding my bike into town. I loved the freedom of hopping on the bike… but the downside was that I had to leave Fiona behind in the Avion where, my Playa Norte neighbors reported, she cried all day long. They said she was “singing” but I knew they were just trying not to make me feel like a bad pug-mom.
Whether crying or singing, I have no doubt this is what she was saying: “How can you call this adventure Travels with Fiona if you’re leaving me behind in the camper all day?”
So, I decided the only thing to do was find a way to bring her with me. Thus began the search for a bike-friendly, back-friendly dog carrier. Please trust me: this is easier said than done!
After much shopping around at a couple of pet stores as well as the abundant offerings on Amazon, I tried four different styles: two conventional backpacks and one “forward-facing” backpack as well as a shoulder sling for a hands-free front carry.
I was impressed with the quality of all four: well made, sturdy, thoughtful. But the key issue for both Fi and me turned out to be fit.
I loved the look of this backpack by Mogoko, $29.99 from Amazon. It comes in basic black and several fabulous vibrant colors – green, orange, fuschia. Selecting this brilliant blue was a tough choice. This is clearly a design for smaller dogs: the XL fits dogs 10 to 15.5 lbs – and Fiona usually weighs in around 16. So I went with the XL and it did fit her very well. Some other features that called to me: breathable mesh for Fiona, adjustable padded shoulder straps for me.
This foward-facing backpack, the K9 Sport Sack Air, immediately grabbed my attention, maybe because I was the kid who always got car sick from riding backwards…. Still, I loved the idea of Fiona being able to “see” what was going on, even if she doesn’t have eyeballs. It was the highest priced backpack I ordered, over $80 on Amazon, but I thought it was going to be a winner. It has some really terrific features – well-ventilated, plenty of side pockets, a block to place in the bottom if your dog is on the shorter side (again, there’s some personal resonance here!) – and I was charmed by the cleverness of their marketing materials. But right out of the box, it was clear that Fiona was not going to fit well into this long and narrow backpack, even with a booster block in the bottom. And the fit for me was also an issue. Even without a 16 lb. dog in the backpack, the chest strap hit me in the wrong place and felt constricting.
So, the winning backpack was this one by PetAmi, a little over $30 on Amazon. I love just about everything about this backpack. It’s well-ventilated, roomy, really solid. It has cunning little footers so you can place the backpack on the ground and it will hold its shape. It comes with a lovely faux sheepskin pad for the bottom and a collapsible water bowl. Two things, though, really stood out for me: 1) it folds down flat for easy storage (a huge consideration with the limited space in the Avion and truck), and 2) it has enough structural integrity that I can imagine it would provide some protection for Fiona should I ever crash the bike while we’re out riding. And the ability to take Fiona with me on bike rides is the main reason for the backpack so this was a no-brainer.
That said, the PetAmi backpack was not Fiona’s favorite. Not by a long shot. She’s still a bit skittish about it, and the day we biked to the UFO Museum in Roswell, NM left her nervous and twitchy. And so, we ended up going with TWO dog carriers, which turned out to be a brilliant decision – and Fiona’s choice is the one we are using almost every day!
It’s the Hayden front sling carrier by Alfie Pet in collaboration with B.Duck, also a little over $30 on Amazon. I wasn’t wild about the red, white and blue color scheme (though it does seem to fit our “Heart of America Tour” theme), but everything else about this carrier is top notch. Wide straps and the ability to shift from shoulder to shoulder make it super comfortable for me, and Fiona loves riding on my belly and being able to “see” where we’re going. There are pockets galore: one large space on the back that’s perfect for my iPad; two smaller on the front for iPhone and keys, lip balm, and such; a snapped compartment at one end for my wallet; and a mesh carrier to hold the collapsible water bowl and a small water bottle. Honestly, I can’t say enough about this sling carrier. Now, there can be no mistake: everywhere we go, it’s Travels with Fiona.