Over the years the address for Vagabond Choppers has changed, but one thing has remained constant, and that is the crazy trio of dogs that keep the place safe and upbeat. Athena Ransom started Vagabond Choppers in 2003 and has strived to make a place for women in the motorcycle world. She is known for her incredible live on-stage motorcycle builds with her Chopper Chick Crew. She’s a hands-on motorcycle builder and mechanic doing everything from welding and cutting to wrenching and painting. She’s a wife, mother, and for years cared for her father.
Life can feel overwhelming at times, but Athena has three goofy pups, Sparky, Booger, and Tootsie, that keep her spirits up and who make her laugh every day. They are all rescue dogs that found their way into Athena’s home, heart, and shop. Sparky is the old lady of the crew, a large black pit bull mix who is 11 years old. Booger, a 10-year-old large brown pit bull, is the old man of the group. But the wildest one is little six-year-old Tootsie, who keeps everyone in line.
Athena adopted them all as puppies in Pompano Beach, where the shelters are full. She took them in and they have been taking care of her ever since. Most mornings in the Vagabond household, it’s a madhouse leaving for work, as the pups are so happy to be going to work with Mom, jumping around, and running out to the car. Leaving for the day, and sometimes the long nights, are tricky, trying to remember all she has to bring with her. And the silly, crazy dog show that follows her can make it challenging.
Having an independent motorcycle shop is hard work, and at times, the hours can be long and brutal. The warehouse areas where many of these shops are located get pretty deserted after hours, a fact Athena knows all too well. The weather in south Florida is hot, and Vagabond Choppers needs to keep the doors open to let in the cool night air. Working alone at night, Athena never has to worry as her three-dog security crew makes sure the shop area is safe. They sit by the door and keep one eye on everything that is going on.
Another job the dogs perform is to keep out solicitors. It’s interesting how people see dogs. Customers will come to shop see the dogs and walk right up but non-customers will see the dogs and walk away. They won’t even bother coming in. In fact, customers often bring treats for the dogs.
The dog show follows Athena throughout the day. When she’s doing administrative duties, they are at her feet. But they love it when she’s working in the shop. Fabrication and mechanical work is much more interesting for them. In fact, her favorite shop dog story happened one day when she was welding. Booger wanted to chase the sparks. Tootsie and Sparky got so mad at him that they barked him right in the office and Sparky closed the door with her nose.
Athena’s customers love the dogs and think it’s cool how they all lay around and watch whatever’s happening in the shop. It can be hard work taking care of three dogs, but it’s well worth it for Athena. She can’t imagine life without them. They’ve been by her side through so many challenging times in her life. In fact, in 2011 Athena had to close her shop for a few years so she could take care of her father Phil while he was fighting bone cancer. She reopened the shop in Pompano Beach a year after he passed away. And those dogs were there with her for all of it—her Three Dog Crew, making her laugh, keeping her safe, and making sure she never feels alone on those long nights in the shop.