McMurray Musings - Not Your Usual Suspect... Greb Glides
When his frontman passed away unexpectedly last year, Sandy MacDonald, the human counterpart of the canine-human motorcycling duo known as Winky Rides, was devastated. Winky, a seemingly healthy German Shepherd, had been with Sandy for ten years, and their motorcycling adventures had taken them all across Canada and the USA. Even during his sadness, Sandy knew the story could not end with the loss of Winky, and he began the search for a new canine partner.
So it is this spring a new puppy pranced into Fort McMurray, his German Shepherd puppy tail proudly wagging. The response to his arrival has been nothing short of remarkable as the community warmly welcomed the little ball of fluff known as Greb, named after famous boxer Harry Greb. The arrival of Greb heralds the beginning of “Greb Glides” the next stage in the adventures of Sandy and his canine sidekicks.
While the concept of a motorcycle-loving, goggle-wearing and wildly-grinning dog is enchanting enough, perhaps the true beauty of the partnership is how Sandy has taken the fame of Winky (and the impending fame of Greb) and turned it into a fundraising machine for the Fort McMurray SPCA with the sales of t-shirts, limited edition prints of a painting of Winky created by local artist Russell Thomas and more. Every penny raised, along with donations, is funnelled to the local SPCA in support of the work they do in our region.
Sandy and Winky travelled far and wide, gathering followers and admirers from not only this country and our direct neighbour but also from around the world. They came to represent the best of Fort McMurray, the kind of place where independence, innovation and a certain degree of quirkiness are not only accepted but expected. As they travelled they taught others from outside our community about who we are, and they served as representatives in ways tourism marketing campaigns could never do.
The motorcycle culture in Fort McMurray is strong. One of the surest signs of spring is the sudden appearance of dozens of motorcycles, freed from their winter captivity in garages and hitting the road in pursuit of fun and adventure. For the past decade, one of those motorcycles has been attached to a trailer in which sat a large dog, a fine ambassador for our community who simply loved his job. It would be difficult to see that end, and so I think it is with a collective sigh of relief and joy we know that Greb will now take on the role of community canine ambassador, carrying on the proud tradition that began with Winky.
So this summer if you happen to see a motorcycle with a trailer, and in the trailer is a German Shepherd with goggles, his name is Greb. And while technically he belongs to Sandy MacDonald, in truth in some sense he belongs to all of Fort McMurray, as we have taken him into our hearts and minds just as we did his predecessor. As Greb glides through our community, tail wagging and ears flapping, he will make us smile and wave, just as Winky did; and just like Winky, he will help us build our community spirit through our love and support of one goggle-wearing, motorcycle-ride-loving dog and his human partner.