Alaska’s puppy bus a big hit

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2023/01/10/alaska-dog-bus-mo-mountain-mutts/? (click thru for photos)

These dogs ride a bus like humans ‘and now the internet is in love’

‘The puppy bus just took off,’ said Mo Thompson, who runs a dog walking business in Skagway, Alaska.

By Sydney Page

January 10, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EST

Amaru, a 5-year-old rescue dog, waits patiently on his family’s front lawn in Skagway, Alaska, watching for the bus to arrive each morning.

“He got used to sitting in that spot. He even looks in the direction he knows they’re going to come,” said his dad, Gary Hisman — who typically does yard work while Amaru awaits his daily transport. “He’s a very smart guy.”

Amaru, along with about 40 other dogs, is part of a play group organized by Mo Mountain Mutts — a local dog walking and training business, run by husband-and-wife duo, Mo and Lee Thompson.

The Thompsons lead off-leash pack walks up to three times a day, but what has captured the attention of people worldwide are hilarious videos showing how they collect their canine clients: A recent TikTok video of several dogs confidently boarding the bus on their own with big wagging tails was viewed more than 50 million times.

Alaska dogs hop on minibus

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Mo Mountain Mutts, a local dog walking and training business in Skagway, Alaska, facilitates off-leash pack walks, using a minibus to collect their clients. (Video: Mo Mountain Mutts)

It documents the Thompsons’ regular pickup routine. At one point, the minibus stops in front of Amaru’s home, where he is seated in the front yard — clearly expecting them. From inside the bus, the Thompsons open the doors for the pup, and he happily leaps in.

Once entering the bus, the dogs typically sniff around and greet the other canine passengers, before climbing onto their assigned seat — which the Thompsons have trained them to do. Then, their harness gets secured, and the same process is repeated as the rest of the pack, about 12 dogs, is picked up.

The seats are carefully selected based on factors such as a pup’s personality, age and manners. Most dogs head directly to their designated seat without being guided.

Bus-riding dog who took herself to park remembered as ‘Seattle icon’

“Specific areas of the bus are better suited to the dogs,” Mo, 31, explained, adding that senior dogs tend to be assigned seats closer to the front, while rowdier youngsters ride in what she calls the “licky puppy corner,” because they tend to lick each other for most of the journey.

When the dogs board the bus, Mo does a small obedience drill, and passes out treats to reward good behavior. Once they’re settled and buckled in, Mo said, “they have to stay on their seats” — just like humans — while being transported to the trailhead.

Mo and Lee regularly film portions of their bus rides and walks and share videos on social media. Lately they’ve been going viral. Mo Mountain Mutts has around 237,000 followers on Instagram, and 1.3 million followers on TikTok, but they reach far more people than that on social media.

“I originally started posting on social media for my clients,” Mo said, adding that she often shared “class photos” for dog parents.

“Somewhere along the line,” she said, “the puppy bus just took off, and now the internet is in love.”

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In the videos, Amaru has emerged as a fan favorite.

“All my friends tease me that he’s going to leave home and go to Hollywood,” Hisman joked.

This dog has collected more than 1,000 littered plastic bottles

People often call out the dogs by name in the video comments, to the delight of the pet’s owners.

“Otis is all business… straight to his seat. Amaru wants to socialize,” one person observed.

“Jake hopping on his seat is always my fav,” another commented.

Fans of the dog bus say the videos are a guaranteed mood boost.

“Can we all agree that this video heals all sadness? Cause I was crying two minutes ago. I am not anymore,” one person wrote.

“It’s bringing me so much joy,” another user commented.

Just as the Thompson’s social media stardom was unexpected, so, too, was the couple’s canine-focused career path. They never set out to start a dog walking company, Mo said — or move permanently to Alaska, for that matter.

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