Super playful and cuddly is how Todd Steigerwalt describes his Schnoodle dog—a breed mix of a schnauzer and a poodle—Pippa. You may have seen her speed past you on the Atlanta BeltLine while riding on Steigerwalt’s back.
The unlikely cycling team came together in June 2017. Steigerwalt and his wife, Christen, were looking for the perfect canine companion.
“We live in a townhouse in Midtown. I wanted a dog I could bike ride with; it seemed like a fun idea. Her parents, who are both cyclists, suggested a dog around 10 pounds,” says Steigerwalt.
After a long search for a hypoallergenic dog on Petfinder, they found one, but it fell through. “We were really sad, but then we found Pip. Someone had actually claimed her already, but then we got a note back that they’d said she was too small,” he says.
The rugged 10-pound pup, as Steigerwalt described her, was about two hours away from Atlanta at the Humane Society of the Southeast in Newnan. At the time, she was between two and three years old.
Shortly after she arrived at her Midtown home, Steigerwalt put her in a messenger bag that he had. “I was like, all right Pip, this is going to be your life,” he recalls. “She didn’t complain or squirm—we just walked around the house.”
Within a month, the duo was traveling the Atlanta streets. A lifelong cyclist and triathlete, Steigerwalt purchased a small chest harness from an online retailer and took her on her first ride: a four-mile trek along the BeltLine Eastside Trail from Midtown to Krog Street Market.
“We started riding together and sticking to the park, the BeltLine, and the bike path. If I’m going downhill at 30-35 miles per hour, her paws are just flying in the wind,” he says. “She starts pedaling [in the air], and if you touch her, she gets really upset. She feels like she’s helping.”
The chest harness worked for a while, but Steigerwalt started having shoulder issues—aggravated from his road-bike racing days. That’s how his current backpack setup came to be—Pippa perches upon his shoulder “like a parrot” through a K9 Sports Sac bag. Now, they ride together up to three times a week.
Pippa’s Instagram profile, a collection of her rides around the city, went from a few hundred followers to nearly 4,000 followers today following a Bicycling magazine feature.
Pippa’s adorable gear—wearing extra small goggles while inside the backpack—started capturing the hearts of people in Atlanta and beyond. He gave her treats to introduce her to the protective goggles and build trust.
“She understands now that wearing the goggles is a requirement for bike riding. But she won’t wear them any other time,” Steigerwalt says. “She gets frustrated from time to time, so I’ll stop and give her some face rubs, then put them back on.”
Pippa has sponsorships with several companies—dog goggles company Rex Specs even named their hot pink goggles after her.
Steigerwalt says he’s often asked if he has to make Pippa go on a bike ride, but he says that when he asks her to go on a ride, she gets really excited. “She runs over to me, and if I get out the goggles or the backpack, she knows what’s going on. She loves it.”
“Everybody says they love following her Instagram stories daily. That’s why I really do it. And she gets a lot of fun adventures out of it,” says Steigerwalt.