It’s a bike shop that looks like it’s been there forever, a brick corner building from the 1920s. You can almost picture Harley-Davidson singles and vintage Indians rolling out the door. It’s a place in Newark, New York, that was always meant to be a bike shop. Ray J’s Motorcycle Shop moved into the building in 2005, fulfilling that destiny. And no classic bike shop would be complete without a shop dog. But this is the story of two shop dogs, both of whom are well known in their little town. Because in Newark when you see a classic 1941 Harley-Davidson with a sidecar, chances are, the sidecar passenger will be a dog.
It all started in 1997, long before Ray J opened his shop. Dozer was a sweet-natured boxer who was the love of Ray J’s life. “I got Dozer from a local fella that didn’t have a need for her any longer. The moment I saw her I thought she was great. She was let loose from her kennel and we played in her yard a bit. I asked the owner if he would consider selling her and he gave her to me! She was the best gift I’ve ever received and she was also the reason for me adding a sidecar to my 1941 Harley-Davidson 80 c.i. Flathead. She was my constant companion until late December 2010. There were many sidecar rides and happy days with her. Dozer must have had a few thousand miles under her belt in that sidecar. I think everybody around here knew Dozer and they smiled and waved at her. Who wouldn’t smile at a dog like that one? When I grieve over her loss my mother says, ‘You made her famous.’ And I guess she was. She got her photo in a local paper on one of our rides and a small article in yet another paper from a couple towns over.”
After Dozer passed away, Ray J went to the shelters looking for a pup to fill the void. It was at the Humane Society of Wayne County when he spotted a clever pup, or rather when the clever pup spotted him! This is how Ray J tells the story: “This guy was obviously very intelligent and he was trying every trick to get my attention. I left without a dog that day, but I couldn’t shake the image of the little guy. Baron had been up for adoption for four months with no potential home in sight. The next week I went back, on Good Friday 2011, and took him home.”
“His average day is riding to work where he entertains customers with his antics such as climbing into the loft above the parts room and looking down on everyone at the parts counter. When it’s lunchtime he comes around to charm us out of our pizza crusts. Daryl Polakiewicz drops off a bag of biscuits for him about once a month and Charlie Dean brings him a bag of soft treats once a week. The little guy is pretty pampered. His main job is just to make me happy, but he is very good at letting me know when a customer comes in and I didn’t hear the door chime as I was running a loud tool.”
And being a clever guy, he took quickly to riding in the sidecar. “When I roll my bike out of the garage, he dives aboard without being invited. I’m not going to get away without him. He is a rock star everywhere we go. Every drive-through window in town knows his name and he always gets a treat.”
But how do you train a dog to ride in a sidecar? “Very little training was needed. Training consisted of me telling the dog to get in a sidecar and ‘sit-stay.’ Then walk away for a couple of minutes. When I returned I said ‘Jump!’ and out came the dog. After a couple weeks of that routine, I started the motor with the dog aboard and away we went! I was a little worried before Dozer’s first ride but after mile one I knew there were no worries. Both Dozer and Baron took right to sidecar riding with no restraints. Just point to the sidecar and they leap in happy to be included!”
“When people ask me what type of dog Baron is. I always reply, ‘Boxer mixed with a cowardly lion.’ Then I add, ‘He is my best and only friend.’ Yes, Dozer was the love of my life, but Baron might fill her shoes yet.”
Ray J’s Motorcycle Shop has been in business full-time since 2001. He moved into the Newark location in 2005 and specializes in parts and accessories for 1940-1953 Indian motorcycles and all years of H-D. His services include motor and transmission rebuild for the Indian Chief and H-D models from the 1930s to 1999. If you’re in the area, stop by and meet the clever pup who is carrying on the sidecar tradition in Newark!