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Cruises with dog-powered scooter

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GREENWICH, Conn. - When retired New York Mets pitcher Craig Swan brought his newly adopted dog Daisy home, he quickly realized how much exercise the young animal craved. Daisy, a mid-sized, mixed-breed dog adopted from Greenwich Animal Control's shelter, longed for strenuous exercise that the 59-year-old Swan was unable to provide because of what he described as a shaky leg that keeps him from walking more than a mile at a time.

So Swan and his wife, both residents of Old Greenwich, went online and discovered a Web site that advertised a dog-powered scooter. "I got my scooter, put the attachment on and now Daisy and I go out for at least three miles a day," said Swan, who pitched for the Mets from 1974 to 1985.

The product is a non-motorized scooter attached to a special piece of equipment with a padded harness allowing the dog to run alongside the scooter and pull its master as they glide along. Swan said he pushes the scooter a little in the beginning to get it moving and sometimes on hills, but Daisy, who has pit bull and hound origins, is easily able to move the scooter along herself.

"My dog is pretty fast. I would guess I'm doing 20 mph in a full run," said Swan, who has been garnering attention around town with the gadget.

Kerri Ann Hofer, of Cos Cob, was at Greenwich Point a few weeks back when she and Swan crossed paths.

"In a matter of minutes he had Daisy harnessed in and they flew off," Hofer said. "I said to myself, 'How do I find one?"'

Like Swan, Hofer said her young dog Deizel needs tons of exercise or else she gets rambunctious in the house.

"I walk her about two hours a day," Hofer said. "If she did this, she would get more exercise in 15 minutes."

Hofer said she already had lots of friends who were interested in buying the scooter and starting a club, an idea pitched by Swan.

Bill Peterson, a Greenwich animal control officer who adopted Daisy to the Swans, said he thought the scooter was a great idea.

"It's a marvelous thing. It's a good outlet and exercise for the dog," Peterson said.

However, Peterson noted that the scooter is not suitable for all dogs.

"It's an individual thing and the dog needs to be shown the proper way of doing it," said Peterson.

On the Web site of the Bend, Ore.-based scooter company, the manufacturer recommends that the device only be used for athletic dogs in their prime who weigh more than 35 pounds.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it was not aware of the scooter, but warned about the risk of injury that could result from its use.

"My concern would be if the human decided they wanted to go faster and the dog might be forced to go a speed they wouldn't be comfortable with," said Dr. Jennifer Lander, director of the Medicine and Adoption Center for the ASPCA in New York City.

However, Lander said she could not make a full determination on the product unless she saw it in action. Lander agreed that young dogs in particular do need a lot of exercise.

Hofer said as a dog owner, she felt the product was safe so long as you were in tune with your dog's capabilities.

"I think that it's extremely safe. If you have a dog that didn't enjoy it, as an owner you wouldn't continue that activity," Hofer said.

"I think most dogs would love it."

Swan said he is hoping to make a group that can exercise their dogs together. He also wants to visit shelters with the scooters to help exercise dogs that are restricted to a cage most of the day.


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