Amaru, along with about 40 other dogs, is part of a playgroup organized by Mo Mountain Mutts — a local dog walking and training business run by husband-and-wife duo Mo and Lee Thompson.
The Thompsons travel up to three times a day, but what catches people’s attention around the world are the funny videos showing how they recruit canine customers: a recent video on TikTok shows several dogs confidently boarding a bus by themselves. big wagging tails have been viewed over 50 million times.
It documents the Thompsons’ regular pick-up business. At one point, the van pulls up in front of Amaru’s house, where he sits in the yard – clearly waiting for them. Inside the bus, the Thompsons open the doors for the puppy, and he happily jumps inside.
Once inside the bus, the dogs typically sniff around and greet other canine passengers before climbing into their seats — something the Thompsons have taught them. Then they are harnessed and the same process is repeated as the rest of the pack, about 12 dogs, is picked up.
Seats are carefully selected based on factors such as the puppy’s personality, age and behavior. Most dogs go directly to their designated seat without a guide.
“The special areas of the bus are more suitable for dogs,” said Mo, 31, adding that older dogs are assigned seats closer to the front, while more nimble youngsters hang out in what he calls the “false dog corner” because they spend most of the journey alone. they tend to lick each other.
When the dogs board the bus, Mo does a little obedience training and treats to reward good behavior. Once they’re settled and wrapped, Mo said, they “must stay put,” just like humans, when they’re carried to the trailhead.
Mo and Lee regularly film parts of their bus rides and walks and share videos on social media. They are going viral lately. Mo Mountain Mutts has nearly 237,000 followers on Instagram and 1.3 million followers on TikTok, but they reach many more people on social media.
“I first started posting on social media for my clients,” Mo said, adding that she often shares “class photos” for dog parents.
“Somewhere along the line,” he said, “the little bus just took off and now the internet is in love.”
Amaru has emerged as a fan favorite in the videos.
“All my friends teased me that he was going to leave home and go to Hollywood,” Hisman joked.
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People often make pet owners happy by calling dogs by their names in video comments.
“Otis is all about it… straight to his seat. Amaru wants to socialize,” one person observed.
“Jake bouncing in his chair is always my favorite,” said another.
Dog bus fans say the videos are guaranteed to lift the spirits.
“Can we all agree that this video cures all sorrows? Because I was crying two minutes ago. I’m not anymore,” one person wrote.
“This brings me so much joy,” commented another user.
Just as Thompson’s social media stardom was unexpected, so was the couple’s dogged career path. Mo said they never intended to start a dog-walking company — or move to Alaska permanently.
The Thomsons both grew up in Michigan and were high school sweethearts who took a trip to Alaska in 2014. At first they only intended to spend the summer there, but in the end they stayed. About six years ago, Mo worked as a bartender, server, and hostess at a hotel restaurant, while her husband worked as a server at the same restaurant, as well as a special education paraprofessional at a local school, and later an athletic trainer. director.
At the time, Mo, whose parents were dog breeders, had some flexibility in her work schedule, and “it just started with my co-worker and I walking each other’s dogs,” she said. “I had more time to get them out.”
It grew from there. Given that Skagway has a population of less than 2,000, word of Mo’s dog walking services spread and people reached out to inquire about his availability.
“I slowly started collecting dogs to the point where I had to start a second group,” said Mo, who quit his restaurant job in 2016 to devote more time to dog walking. “It really just evolved from that.”
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Meanwhile, her husband continued to focus on his business until he lost his job in 2021 after the school closed due to covid. He began attending Mo’s daily walks for fresh air.
It turns out the timing couldn’t have been better: At the height of the pandemic, “people were adopting dogs like crazy,” Mo said.
Business began to grow rapidly, and Lee adopted Mo Mountain Mutts as his main business. They eventually replaced their van with a bus to meet the growing demand for dogs.
Now, with an 8-month-old son, Vern, as well as three dogs and a cat, the couple often share and conquer the business. Mo usually tackles morning walks and Lee tackles afternoon walks. They also offer training (virtual and in person), solo tours, socializing classes, and other services.
When it comes to package tours, “there are so many ideas about where to go and what to do,” Mo explained. For example, “if the weather is hot, we need to find a source of water. If it’s icy, we won’t lean. If I have a baby, we should be in the right place. “If I have a big group, we can’t go to places with tight corners and blind spots.”
She conducts temperament testing and trail training beforehand to ensure a dog feels comfortable letting it off leash.
“All dogs that go on walks with my pack need to know my rules and expectations,” she said. “We are trying to promote good dog citizens.”
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He added that while he favors obedience and safe behavior, he also encourages playful, messy fun.
“My business is built around dogs being dogs,” he said. “First come the dogs. “Dogs are always a priority.”
Jim Higgins’ three-year-old colt, Murray, joined the rides about two years ago.
“He hears the bus come down the alley and he gets really excited,” Higgins said.
He said dog walking has been a bright spot in a tough few years. “They lifted all our spirits.”
Being with the dogs all day seems almost too good to be true, the Thompsons say, and the online support they receive is a welcome bonus.
“It’s a dream,” Mo said. “I can’t believe what we do for a living.”