York, Pa. -- After being cooped up in the house, Loney and Miss D. long to take a spin on a motorcycle. Never mind that the night is chilly: Sweat shirts and vinyl skullcaps keep them warm. Loney tugs at his goggles as they round a bend near the corner pharmacy. Then they both smile, even slobber a bit, as the Honda GoldWing zooms off into the distance at 50 mph. Ah, this is the life . . .
The dogs' life, that is.
nTC You've heard of a bicycle built for two, but what about a motorcycle made for three? This cycle a trois isn't for the lovestruck, though; it's a set-up devised by Larry Geier, a York, Pa., resident who has turned his two basset hounds into canine easy riders.
"I really feel for them [staying] at home during the day," says Mr. Geier, 47, a draftsman at Environmental Elements in southwest Baltimore. "I don't want them to be alone all the time, so I take them with me. That's what made me want them to like my motorcycle."
And like it they do.
Loney, aka Felonious Assault, is the daredevil, riding with his nose in the air, ears flapping and tail wagging. He is known to try to jump on the bike himself and whimper like a child when it stops. Miss D., aka Misdemeanor, prefers to sit back and relax. She rests one paw over the other, hanging her head on the metal rail.
In the last few years, the droopy-eyed dogs have logged close to 2,000 miles with Mr. Geier, attracting attention wherever they go. They've been guests at county fairs, parades and dog shows, sometimes dressing up in leprechaun, dragon or monster costumes that Mr. Geier sews for them. Members of his Lutheran church have even asked the trio to do a special Sunday school class. ("I haven't quite figured out how to tie them into religion yet," he says, "but I think there's something there about the way dogs are faithful to their master.")
And get this: Loney and Miss D. have met Willard Scott, the daffy "Today" show weatherman who visited York in July.
The idea of man's best friend meeting motorcycle started several years ago when on a lark Mr. Geier took Miss. D. for a ride. She enjoyed it so much he and his son welded side saddles with two-inch cushions onto his bike. He custom-made goggles for the dogs' faces. To protect their inner ears from the wind, he sewed vinyl skullcaps that he ties with shoe laces. And he devised safety belts: The dogs wear shoulder harnesses and modified horse harnesses that attach to the seat frame.
From the looks of him, Larry Geier is possibly the last man on earth you'd expect to alter children's clothes for his pets. Maybe it's the black T-shirt stretching across his expansive belly or the tire chain hanging from his belt. But listen to the divorced father of three talk to his dogs and the image quickly changes.
"Come here! I want to take your shirts off before you potty," he says, gently lifting Miss. D.'s paw and removing her raspberry-colored shirt.
His York home is a paean to his pets, with basset hound posters in the dining room, basset hound candles in the den and a framed photo of Loney and Miss D. meeting Santa displayed on top of the TV.
Not everyone, however, is wowed by Mr. Geier and his motorcycle-riding gang of two. People occasionally chastise him because they think he is endangering or hurting his dogs.
Pennsylvania law requires that animals be transported in a safe, secure and humane manner, says Cindy Stoll, manager of the York County SPCA. And while the organization does not condone traveling via motorcycle with pets, its members have been impressed with Mr. Geier's caution.
"Ordinarily we would not consider it safe," Ms. Stoll says. "But Larry is very, very careful. . . . We've not seen the animals damaged in any way. They're perfectly relaxed in this situation, and they don't seem fearful."
Others find the idea, well, plain silly.
"It's kind of goofy," says Mr. Geier's 26-year-old daughter, Marijo Addlesberger. "Sometimes I get kind of embarrassed. I hope nobody knows that's he's my dad."
Mr. Geier has faced moments of embarrassment as well, particularly when it comes to "nature breaks."
"If Loney's whimpering and crying, I know I better get him off the seat fast," he says. "He's got to go."
Loney has had a few accidents during long rides, but it's nothing that paper towel, soap and water hasn't fixed. "He sometimes gets too excited when he's riding," Mr. Geier explains.
Recently Mr. Geier discovered he's not alone on the open road. Fellow Honda GoldWing owner Carl Finglass also rides with his two dogs,Jack Russell terriers named Bandit and Skol. He places his pets in unbreakable tinted Plexiglas boxes bolted to the rails of his side saddles.
"If I go without them, it's like punishment," says Mr. Finglass, 54, thepresident of an Abingdon graphics company. "Bandit would rather go on the bike than eat steak."
But neither man believes he's setting a trend in pet transportation here.
"I don't know if too many people would do what I've done, but a few have asked me to design seats for their pets," says Mr. Geier.
These days, however, he's directing his attention toward getting his hounds more publicity. He's currently editing a tape of Loney and Miss D.'s excellent adventure for "America's Funniest Home Videos." And he's also working on creating rain gear -- pet ponchos and a motorcycle shield -- for the dogs.
"My intention was always to just enjoy my pets, but this has changed my life some," he says. "It seems to have given a lot of pleasure to other people, too. I like that."