It’s a sight that has captured the attention of many, and almost caused traffic accidents: Greb the German Shepherd riding shotgun in a motorcycle sidecar alongside owner Sandy MacDonald.
The pair are often seen cruising the streets of Fort McMurray, and sometimes, all the way down to Las Vegas.
“I’ve seen people almost hit the ditch,” said MacDonald. “People pass you, take pictures.”
But they’re not just riding for fun, the duo has raised about $200,000 for charities with sponsored rides, selling T-shirts and direct donations.
Sandy MacDonald, who likes to refer to himself as the public relations officer for Greb, has been fundraising for the SPCA and other charities for years.
It started in 2006 with his dog Winky.
MacDonald trained Winky to ride in a small trailer he towed behind the motorcycle. He started getting attention and friends suggested he should start raising money for charities.
“This all happened by fluke,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald’s home is a testament to the adoration the public has had for his dogs.
“They say every dog has a purpose. It’s almost like Winky was meant to do this kind of thing,” said MacDonald.
Fan art hangs on the walls of MacDonald’s home with photos, paintings, prints and hand-crafted wood plaques.
Winky died in 2016, but the community wouldn’t let the legacy of the motorcycling dog fade away. In the past five years on June 6, Winky’s birthday, the mayor of Wood Buffalo would give a proclamation announcing its Winky’s Day, and there are several fundraisers to honour the dog.
One fundraiser is a memorial ride, led by MacDonald and Greb.
Shortly after WInky died, MacDonald got Greb.
“He’s following in Winky’s footsteps,” said MacDonald.
MacDonald and his dogs have raised $157,000 for the Fort McMurray SPCA as well as tens of thousands of dollars for other local charities.
Charles Brandsgard, executive director for the Fort McMurray SPCA, said MacDonald has been supporting the organization for years.
The most recent $10,000 donation will be used to buy two treadmills for dogs so they can exercise in the winter.
“I was awe-struck when I found out Sandy was doing this,” said Brandsgard, who has been with the SPCA for a few months. He said the money raised has a big impact on the animals.
“Every dollar makes a huge difference,” said Brandsgard.
MacDonald named both of his dogs after famous boxers: Winky Wright and Harry Greb. And many of the sponsored motorcycle rides are to Las Vegas, where MacDonald watches boxing matches, and says WInky even met his namesake.
Both dogs have different personalities when they are riding alongside MacDonald. Winky was known for leaning with the bike as it turned, whereas Greb is known for singing along to the 4 Non-Blondes song What’s Up.
Greb also does the trademark “gum-flap,” MacDonald said. The dog will up his mouth and let his cheeks flap in the wind.
“It’s his trademark… it’s on his shirt. We’ve got it on magnets. We’ve got it on videos,” said MacDonald.
Greb went for his first motorcycle ride when he was three months old. He’s been to Las Vegas twice, and has racked up almost 40,000 kilometres. He raises about $10,000 every ride.
And MacDonald matches any donation made by kids.
The dogs are on shirts around the world, from the United States to Turkey.
For those concerned about the dogs’ safety, MacDonald said Greb wears goggles and he’s well-trained in riding bikes.
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