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When I met adventure photographer Linda Guerette at Rebecca’s Private Idaho a couple years ago, it was initially her little sidekick that got us talking. Poking his scruffy little head out of her bag, her now three-year-old terrier-chihuahua goes wherever she goes, be it a photoshoot in the Idaho or skiing in the Colorado mountains. We recently chatted with Guerrette to learn a little bit more about her adventures with Levi.
Levi is three years old, a mighty five kilograms and he loves to ride. So much so that he’s already logged around 15,000 miles (24,140 kilometres) in the company of photographer and avid outdoorswoman Linda Guerrette.
Where she goes, so does he, and by now he has become a bit of a fixture in the North American dirt scene as riders can’t help but fawn over the scruffy terrier poking his head out of Guerrette’s backpack.
“Everyone loves him,” said Guerrette. “He comes to a lot of events with me and he’s become a piece of my identity, really, which is kinda cool. He’s someone people want to spend time with, and he is receptive to that.”
Since taking him home from the shelter three years ago, life has been a big adventure for Levi as he accompanies Guerrette on shoots across the country and many outdoor adventures.
“He’s different from any other dog I have had. He’s a wise soul. Honestly, he’s more like a person than a dog. He’s my adventure buddy.” Guerrette said.
“He goes where I go. I never trained him to do that. I can barely get him to sit on command. He just loves it. He is unique in that way, which makes him so much more than a dog. He is an extension of me.”
A big outdoorswoman, Guerrette only had golden retrievers in the past, but despite his small stature, Levi is more than capable of holding his own.
Together the duo goes hiking, mountain biking, skiing, paddle boarding and snow-biking — Levi’s favourite.
“He can’t run as far and fast [as bigger dogs] but he loves it. When we go snowbiking, he’ll go 5 or 6 miles drafting behind me in the tyre track,” she said.
And when he’s tuckered out, Levi gets to enjoy the ride from Guerrette’s backpack.
Like so many riders, Guerrette does a lot of her adventuring solo. Having Levi to keep her company makes her feel both connected and safe.
“Biking for me has played several roles in my life. It’s always been something therapeutic for me, as it is for lots of people. I ride for mental meditation and exploration. And a lot of stuff I do, I do solo. But being able to share that with another being – be it a dog or a person – is rewarding. Levi is very curious and very attentive and it helps me to see my environment in a different way, his way, I think,” Guerrette shared.
“Although he is little, the terrier does come out in him so he’s my little protector. I actually feel quite secure with him.”
Be considerate to your companion
For others wanting to ride with their dogs, Guerrette offered some tips.
“First off, Levi really does enjoy coming on my adventures but not all dogs do. So you have to make sure your dog is comfortable with the bike — on it, running next to it and encountering other bikes,” she said.
“When you are riding with you dog, the keyword there is ‘with’. You have to consider their needs: don’t go too far or too fast, alter your plan, pay attention to them. Ultimately, just like us, if they’re comfortable, they’re going to enjoy it more.”
Safety, too, is important.
“I put a bell on him so I know where he is at all times,” she shared. “I make sure he’s not too cold or too warm, and I’ll give him electrolytes when he needs it.”
Companion but still a dog
When asked if she’d rather ride with people or with Levi, Guerrette laughed.
“I’m planning my next bikepacking trip and he’s coming with me. I haven’t invited any else so that answers that question,” she said.
That doesn’t make her a ‘crazy dog lady’ though, she said.
“For me, he is a companion dog, but I don’t ‘need’ him. I don’t force him on others and I respect the dog-free zones,” she said.
And the name? Yes, it does have a little something to do with retired pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer.
“Levi was the first name he responded to. While I didn’t name him after Levi Leipheimer originally, over time he did start to remind me of Levi Leipheimer for being such a little explosive and energetic fella. So it’s kind of fitting.”